Tag Archives: Fiona farrell

Monday Poem: Fiona Farrell’s ‘Photo opportunity’

 

 

Photo opportunity

 

As we approach the river of

forgetfulness, you will notice a

slight acceleration. On your left,

the garage and the motorcamp.

On your right, a thicket of

blackberry. (The berry’s blood,

thorn under the skin.)

Do not adjust your headset.

Do not open the windows.

(Grey braid of river silt, the

lupin’s yellow throat.)

 

Take out your cameras now.

There will be an opportunity

as we cross the river of

forgetfulness. We will pull

over. On the south bank,

shadows cluster. On the

north bank, bone and

rubble. Upriver, the lips

of the gorge, the narrow

source. Downriver is

dispersal and the dump

and seabirds weeping.

 

There are exits here.

And here. They have been

sealed for your security.

Do not adjust your aperture.

 

And now we are on our way.

We have crossed

the whatchamacallit

 

and we are heading

fast toward

 

thingummiebob.

 

©Fiona Farrell

 

 

Fiona Farrell writes poetry, fiction and, occasionally, fact. After 25 years living in a remote bay on Banks Peninsula, she moved last year to Dunedin.

 

 

 

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

Courtney Sina Meredith airs new poems at a very good Ladies Litera-Tea – here are two for you

 

 

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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.

 

The poems

 

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?

How about being a young brown queer single woman?

How about being a young brown queer woman?

How about being a young brown woman?

How about being a young woman?

How about being a woman?

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Her mother’s wings are here

wild shimmered iridescent

girl to bird to prophet

an angel killing time.

 

And there is her mother

at the top of the sky ablaze

lighting the islands below

into a string of tears.

 

©Courtney Sina Meredith

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf Spring Season’s poetry fans: Morrin Rout picks Fiona Farrell

Daffodils

No words to start. No
names. Trees learned
the land by touching
it with dumb fingers.

The names flew in
and hovered, light
as mayflies, skimming
the river of the white
calf, the hill of gorse,
the crag of the cat.

They shifted shape,
became other things.
The river is black
now and deep, the
hill is the hill of
hanging, and the
cats have been
butted from the
crags by shaggy
saints.

As my house
stands on the lip
of the bailer of a
black canoe.

And on a heap
of broken timber.

And on a green shoot.

And on the rocky
point of a man.

Or named Long Bay,
plain words,
printed out
in daffodils.

But already, look:
they’ve multiplied.

Gone wild.

Danced over the lines.
Invaded the field.

They are popping up
in odd places, as if they
have forgotten completely

how to spell.

 

©Fiona Farrell, The Pop-up Book of Invasions (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2007).

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Note from Morrin: Fiona’s poem continues to delight me and reward each reading. I too live on Banks Peninsula and feel at times precarious. Words and names mutate and the landscape continually reminds us that we are newcomers and much has gone before. I love the image of the daffodils being bidden to spell out the name of the bay but over time breaking free and defying human intent.

Morrin Rout has co-produced and presented ‘Bookenz’ on PlainsFM 96,9 for over 20 years and is the director of the Hagley Writers’ Institute in Christchurch.

Multiple award -winner, Fiona Farrell writes across a variety of genres; she has been a finalist in all three categories at the NZ Book Awards, for fiction, non-fiction and poetry. The critically acclaimed, The Villa at the Edge of the Empire, the factual half of a two-volume work, examines the rebuilding of a city through the twinned lenses of non-fiction and fiction. The accompanying novel, ‘Decline and Fall on Savage Street’ has just been published.

Why I loved the Ruapehu Writers Festival

 

‘Memoir is a place to illuminate, not seek revenge.’ Elizabeth Knox

‘The Villa is a book of 100 tiny pieces. That’s how my brain was. Everything had fallen to pieces. I was writing in a state of shock.’ Fiona Farrell

‘I am a product of socialism and feminism.’ Fiona Farrell

‘We are not just a who or a what we are also a here.’ Martin Edmond

‘Archives are as questionable as memory.’ Martin Edmond

‘Poems have tended to ambush me every few decades.’ Fiona Kidman

 

[ I   k e e p   r e m e m b e r i n g

t h i n g s  a n d    a d d i n g     b i t s]

 

Yesterday there was a flurry of writers on social media suggesting the Ruapehu Writers Festival was the best festival ever. I have loved the richness and discoveries of so many other festivals, along with the family warmth of Going West. Yet this festival was special. The best ever.

The setting: The mountain to the north loomed large out of clouds, and on some days into bright blue sky. The mountain stream babbled past like a soothing mountain soundtrack. The trains punctuated sessions and we all stopped and listened to the comforting sound of travel.

The writers: The writers came from far and wide (Martin Edmond, Fiona Farrell). Bigger publishers were represented (Penguin Random House, Auckland University Press, Victoria University Press) and so too were the boutique Presses (Seraph Press, Anahera Press, Mākaro Press, Cat & Spaghetti Press, Hue & Cry – to name a few).

 

The sessions: Not a single dud. Just smorgasbord of highlights. I do want to pick out a couple of presentations that struck a chord with me.

Merrilyn George shared Ohakune stories with Martin Edmond. Wow! I wish the whole country could have squeezed in to hear the way the local matters. Has mattered, does matter and will matter. It was Martin’s session too, but he let Merrilyn take centre stage with his little anecdotal prompts.

The fluency of my good friend Sue Orr when she got talking about place as character.

Three writers musing on the Desert Road: Fiona Kidman, Ingrid Horrocks and Fergus Barrowman (standing in for Nigel Cox). The conversation just flowed and the extracts were riveting. I have tracked down Ingrid’s essay, ‘A Small Town Event,’ in Sport 43. The sample stuck with me so I need to read the whole thing.

Elizabeth Knox‘s festival lecture, ‘On Doubt, Doubtingly,’  explored the implications and means of building memoir. Particularly in view of multiple selves, and the multiple reception and behaviour of selves. Elizabeth showed the way ideas can move, stimulate and challenge. Deliciously complicated and moving.

The children who came to my poetry session. Some as a result of my visit to Ohakune Primary School on the Thursday. I had an outstanding time there. This is a school where the teachers have already sown the fertile seeds of poetry. PS Jenny and Laughton Patrick did a great job getting the whole room singing!

Three writers talk on structure: Pip Adams, Emily Perkins and Fiona Farrell. This session got on National Radio because Fiona let her guard down and moved most of us to tears. I thought I was going to start sobbing out loud. Listening to Fiona read from The Villa at the End of the Empire — a book shortlisted in the nonfiction section of the Ockham NZ Book Awards — was extraordinary. Yet the session was this and was more than this. It embraced two other terrific readings and generated a conversation on structure that made me want to get writing.

Six writers read from Extraordinary Elsewhere: Essays on Place from Aotearoa New Zealand (forthcoming VUP). Ashleigh Young‘s detail kept ringing in my ear, along with the moving circularity of Harry Rickett‘s essay and the philosophical nuggets of Martin Edmond (which I tweeted throughout the session).

I was quite taken with the response of Tim Corballis and Thom Conroy (chair) in my session on POV. I just loved the way Tim proposed the leaf on the boy’s shoe acted as a transcendental point of view. Ha! Thom was an excellent chair.

The final session of poets was a perfect way to end. I discovered the poetry of Hannah Mettner and will go hunting for it in issues of Turbine. I loved hearing Fiona Kidman read from her new book (out next week) and Vana Manasiadis from her old. Magnolia Wilson was also a new find off the page (I had loved her foldout poems). A local poet and ex-librarian, Helen Reynolds read her poems in the quietest of quiet voices. We stretched forward, further and further into her reading. It felt like I was bending forward into the end/ear of the festival.

 

The atmosphere: Warm, intimate, stimulating, generous. The festival had the family flavour of Going West but in a mountain setting. At four thirty each day we spilled into the bar for a glass of wine and platters of gratis nibbles before the final sessions. We shared conversation and that conversation was infused with a common love of books. And an infectious engagement with ideas.

The chance(ish) encounters: Hearing Amy Leigh Wicks read poetry for the first time and having lunch with her. I am itching to write about her poems on the blog. Sitting under the cool of a tree and talking women’s poetry with Sarah Jane Barnett (she was there as reader, as were other writers!). Eating breakfast with the very lovely Fiona Kidman and talking about women’s poetry in the seventies. Meeting a man who lived next to Eileen Duggan but not getting to follow that revelation up (ah! rue!). Drinking coffee with Fiona Farrell and talking about how something in the air or on the page prompted us to let our guard down. Just a tad. Meeting old friends.

The special features: A band of writers cycled back from Horopito Hall with James Brown after hearing a session on cycling and poetry (ok Ashleigh Young where can I read a version of your lost-things poem?). A local kaumatua guided at least forty readers and writers up to a waterfall and back (around two hours). Stacy Gregg led some fans on a horse trek.

The audiences: Most sessions were full to the brim.

The chairs: I especially loved Fergus Barrowman (he did zillions with just the right degree of input), Nick Ascroft (he was hilarious) and Thom Conroy (astute listener!).

The organisers: Anna Jackson, Helen Rickerby and Simon Edmonds built a festival out of nothing yet when I reflect upon this daring, I realise it was out of something. The festival grew out of the hard labour and inventive thinking of these three. It also grew out of the good will these three can harness: from the locals, the venue, the schools, the publishers and the out-of-town readers and writers. It might sound corny but it also grew out of the physical location and its beauty. The festival always bore this mind.

It was really good to hear Anna and Helen read and share ideas. I loved too the way they sat in the front row in every shared and listened so intently. I could see the joy of the occasion on their faces. You don’t usually see festival organisers with freedom to sit in the front row and listen. Yet another sign of what made this occasion special.

Place matters.

I think if I were to ask all writers and readers to join me in a huge pakipaki for Anna, Helen and Simon we would drown out the mountain stream and the passing train. Just for a moment. We are in debt to you. Thank you.

 

Excuse my phone photos!

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My thoughts: 2016 Ockham NZ Book Award Poetry short list

Congratulations to all those who make the short lists! Especially in a year that was larger than a year.

Here is the short list for poetry, see below for other categories.

Poetry
How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes, by Chris Tse (Auckland University Press)
The Night We Ate the Baby, by Tim Upperton (Haunui Press)
Song of the Ghost in the Machine, by Roger Horrocks (Victoria University Press)
The Conch Trumpet, by David Eggleton (Otago University Press)
Would this be my list? No! But that doesn’t mean a thing. Book Awards will always reflect the predilections of the judges. And there are some strong collections here that I have reviewed and loved. Great to see Chris’s debut collection make the cut.
Good to see a small press make it along with the big presses who continue to show an admiral devotion to poetry.
Whom do I mourn? Emma Neale’s extraordinary collection, Tender Machines. Ahh!
I haven’t read many of the novels that made it but how I adored Anna Smaill’s The Chimes that did not. Sorry to be a party pooper on that one.
And how good to see Fiona Farrell and Lynn Jenner make the non-fiction list. I reviewed both those books on the blog and thought they were standout examples of how we can write about the world, catastrophe, home.
Fiction plus poetry equals one woman out of eight.  No women poets. Does this mean the men wrote all the best books in the past year? No way!
Is NZ literature in fine heart? Utterly yes. Astonishing books missed the long lists in both poetry and fiction. We are publishing such quality writing it makes judging almost impossible for Book Award Judges.
For those that missed out, good books have a life beyond book awards. Astonishing books are bigger than book awards. Remember that.
For those that have been picked, enjoy the well-deserved moment, then let the white noise settle and get on with what really matters. Writing.
The 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards finalists are: 
Fiction
The Back of His Head, by Patrick Evans (Victoria University Press)
Chappy, by Patricia Grace (Penguin Random House)
Coming Rain, by Stephen Daisley (Text Publishing)
The Invisible Mile, by David Coventry (Victoria University Press)
Poetry
How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes, by Chris Tse (Auckland University Press)
The Night We Ate the Baby, by Tim Upperton (Haunui Press)
Song of the Ghost in the Machine, by Roger Horrocks (Victoria University Press)
The Conch Trumpet, by David Eggleton (Otago University Press)
General Non-Fiction
Maurice Gee: Life and Work, by Rachel Barrowman (Victoria University Press)
The Villa at the Edge of the Empire: One Hundred Ways to Read a City, by Fiona Farrell (Penguin Random House)
Māori Boy: A Memoir of Childhood, by Witi Ihimaera (Penguin Random House)
Lost and Gone Away, by Lynn Jenner (Auckland University Press)
Illustrated Non-Fiction
Te Ara Puoro: A Journey into the World of Māori Music, by Richard Nunns (Potton and Burton)
New Zealand Photography Collected, by Athol McCredie (Te Papa Press)
Tangata Whenua: An Illustrated History by Atholl Anderson, Judith Binney, Aroha Harris (Bridget Williams Books)
Real Modern: Everyday New Zealand in the 1950s and 1960s, by Bronwyn Labrum (Te Papa Press)
The Fiction category is judged by distinguished writer Owen Marshall CNZM, Wellington bookseller and reviewer Tilly Lloyd, and former Director of the Auckland Writers Festival and former Creative New Zealand senior literature adviser Jill Rawnsley.
The Poetry Prize is judged by former Auckland University Press publisher Elizabeth Caffin MNZM, Dr Paul Millar, of the University of Canterbury, and poet and University of Auckland academic Dr Selina Tusitala Marsh.
The General Non-Fiction Prize is judged by Metro Editor-At-Large Simon Wilson, Professor Lydia Wevers, literary historian, critic and director of the Stout Research Centre at Victoria University of Wellington, and Dr Jarrod Gilbert, a former Book Awards winner for Patched: A History of Gangs in New Zealand, of the University of Canterbury.
The Illustrated Non-Fiction Prize is judged by former publisher Jane Connor, publisher of the magisterial The Trees of New Zealand, which won the Book of the Year award in 2012, Associate Professor Linda Tyler, Director of the Centre for Art Studies at The University of Auckland, and Leonie Hayden, the editor of Mana magazine.
The winners (including of the four Best First Book Awards) will be announced at a ceremony on Tuesday May 10 2016, held as the opening night event of the Auckland Writers Festival. The awards ceremony is open to the public for the first time. Tickets to the event can be purchased via Ticketmaster once festival bookings open on Friday 18 March.