Tag Archives: Going West Literary Festival

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Going West podcast – Paula Green in conversation with Bill Manhire and Norman Meehan

This is one of my favourite sessions I have chaired ever!

Paula Green, poet, anthologist, reviewer and children’s author, with her newly minted honours and awards, shares the stage in a charming conversation with poet, short story writer and academic Bill Manhire, and jazz composer and performer Norman Meehan, as they disclose the alchemy of setting poetic text as song. They discuss their latest collaboration, the riddle project, Tell Me My Name, and along the way Bill Manhire reads two of his poems Frolic and I am quiet when I call.

This session took place the day after Manhire, Meehan and friends delivered a captivating opening night performance, Small Holes in the Silence for the Going West audience.

Listen here

A feast of poetry at Going West



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Serie Barford: The Curnow Reader


Going West always dedicates a significant part of its programme to poetry and this year is no exception.

‘New Zealand’s leading authors, poets, playwrights and musicians offer audiences a fortnight of fresh ideas, future-thinking, language and laughter at the 23rd Going West Writers Festival 1-16 September.’   Good location & food!


8 September                          Going West Poetry Slam. Glen Eden Playhouse

14-16 September               Going West Writers Festival weekend. Titirangi War Memorial Hall


Full programme here



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Word Up! is an exciting performance competition which gives 13–21 year-olds the opportunity to present their original work

If you think poetry is all about fields of daffodils and iambic pentameters, think again. Here, at the Going West Poetry Slam, poets lay it on the line to see who’s got the chops to rise to the top.

The weekend poetry events (14th -16th September):

Poet Serie Barford is the Opening Night’s Curnow Reader

Does a city a writer make? Three visiting Wellington poets – Chris Tse, Helen Heath and Anna Jackson – explore what it’s like to live, work and write in the windy city with Paula Green.

Going West is honoured to partner with Auckland University Press to host the launch of a new collection of poetry from C.K. Stead, That Derrida Whom I Derided Died: Poems 2013-2017.


As we incorporate artificial intelligence, automation and robotics into our lives and even our bodies, we continue to wrestle with what it all means for us as humans. Helen Heath and Dr Jo Cribb are joined by Vincent Heeringa to discuss these issues.

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Stop Press: New venue for Going West this year is in Henderson

Going West Literary Festival has shifted this year! So pleased a venue has been found.

You may have heard that the last weekend, the Titirangi War Memorial Hall’s roof caught fire due to an electrical fault and is out-of-action until well after the Festival. Having considered several alternatives, we are delighted to let you know an excellent new venue has been found in WAITAKERE CENTRAL, West Auckland’s Civic Building in Henderson.

This beautiful, sustainable building (opened in 2006) has excellent facilities, spacious council chambers for the sessions & ample space for catering and conversations.

Located at 6 Henderson Valley Road, it has plenty of parking, is right next to the Henderson Railway Station & is directly behind the main Henderson shops.

Going West’s opening night – packed, warm & uplifting with the occasional bites!

Great to see a packed hall ( a refurbished hall no less) that was a celebration of books and writers but also a celebration of Murray Gray and Naomi McCleary. They say this might be their last year of involvement. But let’s see. I salute them too whole heartedly!

After the powhiri, Glenn read from Alistair Te Ariki Campbell’s Gallipoli poem which was breathtaking to kick start the night.

Harry Ricketts read a poetry medley and I am sure will have hooked a few poets on the triolet form. So good read aloud. Delicious. In ten minutes he managed to make us laugh as much as ooh and aah and gasp. Great reading.

Glenn then introduced his song poem which was extraordinary (I loved the fascinating back story but would have loved it shortened a tad to fit another song poem in) . It came out of being at the Derek Challis session a few years back and discovering Robin Hyde’s (Derek’s mother) poetry and story. So the poem song was to and for and of Robin. I could hear her poetry in it. The whole thing was a mix of a sea shanty come skipping song come folk song come poem. Glenn sang it unaccompanied and I adored it. Want to hear them all.

In between the poets, Stephanie brought her sharp wit to a a playful and utterly political navigation of the line (take the line in any direction you like) in which she also adopted the persona of The National Party Poet (not CK Stead! but a national party stalwart). She had the audience in stitches. Alongside the political nips that hit home, she celebrated Going West — literary festivals, Auckland literary festivals in particular. Genius.

I missed the rest and (supper and talking to a packed house of readers and writers) to drive home through the long wet scary dark of Scenic Drive from one side of the west to the other. Thoughts bounding with the slish shlosh of the wipers.The squeak of the road on the hairpin corners.

A great night.  Tonight the Poetry Slam.


my idiosyncratic Sunday hot spots at the Going West Literary Festival

Not sure where the poetry is in this, but just wanted to share some favourite moments from the Sunday sessions at the Going West Literary Festival (after all, I am an honourary Westie!).

What I love about this festival is you sit in the hall with a whole bunch of other readers for the whole day and you never know quite what will be up next (sure, there is a programme, but thanks to Murrray Gray, the sessions take you to regions and zones and conversations you may have never experienced before. I like that!).

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1. First up, the first time I have ever cried at a Writer’s Festival. Corinne Bridge-Opie was in conversation with Max Cryer as she has just published her memoir on her life as an opera singer. The conversation was full of fascinating anecdote and interrupted with opera tracks. She was married to New Zealand tenor, Ramon Opie. I loved the story about the white chiffon dress she bought to wear when she sang at Convent garden (I think?) with its flowing sash that you could sling down down the back or wrap about the neck to look more glamorous. There was a white chiffon flower on the shoulder to hide the stitching, but just before she was to go a stage with the other girls the assistant to the most-important-man in the building came and snipped it off. He always wore a white gardenia and would not be upstaged.

It was when the tracks played that I became undone. We heard the crackling recording of the aria sung at her wedding and the crackling recording of Corinne and Ramon singing together. On each occasion she would be mouthing the words, her face transfixed with joy and love, and every pore of her body was hijacked back to this moment in time. To sit on stage and listen to the love of your life (he has since passed away) sing with you must have been strange. As some one in the audience, it was breathtaking.

Here is her blog.

2. Sarah Laing talked about the visual, dream narrative in her book The Fall of Light with Dylan Horrocks. In my view, reviewers just didn’t get this sequence. It is like a novella within a novel -so you have to read it visually. Buried within the pomegranate seed (with its visual appeal and luminous symbolism) are the secrets to architectural wonders. You get to see shelves and shelves of the buildings that grew out of the seeds, and you see Rudy with his hand against the glass about to dissolve through the barrier into the room with the woman growing out of the wood like a tree. Sarah said she had tried to write Rudy’s dreams into the narrative but it didn’t work. By using her pen and water-colours, Sarah ‘wanted to infuse the book with a sense of unreality, to unsettle the narrative prose.’ For me, that is exactly what happens as you read the entwined narratives. ‘My hand slips out of the reality more than the language part of my brain does,’ she said.

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And on blogging, ‘I can show you my crossings out and my false steps.’ In a nice follow-on from Corinne, Sarah said she had fantasies of being an opera singer, a fortune teller, a psychic and a gymnast when she was a girl. ‘To be a writer, is a good fit for all these fantasies, of what my life might be.’ In the spirit of the festival, Dylan and Sarah produced a great conversation.

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3. Science fiction writer, Phillip Mann was in conversation with David Larson. It was the first time Phillip had ever been at a festival onstage (you would never have known!). He came up with my favourite anecdote. He was sitting at his typewriter when his wee daughter came and sat on his lap and asked what he was doing. ‘Writing a book,’ he said. ‘Can I write a book?’ she asked. So he got a fresh page and she began to tap and thump until all the keys went into a big clump (remember those old fashioned typewriters!). ‘What does it say?’ she asked. ‘It says Once upon in a deep dark forest there lived a little girl,’ he said. Her eyes filled with story-book wonder. He removed the page and said, ‘Here is your book.’ Gorgeous!   His blog here.

4. As Philip was describing the most terrible alien in his book, The Disenchantment of Paradise, a creature with acute psychic powers, a ladder of light flickered across the black back drop behind him. (almost like the ladder on Sarah’s book cover). Loved it!

5. Hearing Anne Kennedy and Charlotte Grimshaw read fiction aloud for decent chunks of time from two novels that I have loved. It just brings the exquisite craft of their sentences to a new level.

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6. Cathy Downes’s updated performance: Talking of Katherine Mansfield. This is an extraordinary performance that is deeply moving. And to hear Cathy recite ‘The Doll’s House’ — the story came alive on stage like a real thing. I was feeling absolutely sapped of energy having ben at the festival all weekend but the moment she started I was on the edge of my seat. Magnificent!

Thanks Murray Gray, Naomi McCleary and the Going West Trust team. It was a very good festival indeed. Thank you. Pity so few Auckland writers and publishers made the journey out west, but there were some great audiences.

Wild Dogs and other animals: Tusiata Avia is performing today


Last night it was real honour to read poems as The Curnow Reader at the Going West Literary Festival. I also got to hear Charlotte Grimshaw give her eloquent key-note address. She managed to link the sewer pipe of her childhood, the architecture and complexities of Albert Speer and her fiction. The sewer pipe was not just a physical object cutting through the bay, something to walk and even ride a bike on, it was a bridge to an imaginative and psychological elsewhere as much as it was a bridge to a physical elsewhere. She used to go for long walks in the city when she was bored (from Parnell to Avondale say) and the buildings became not-buildings, but topographical markers that prompted different, psychological meanings. What I loved about this talk, is the way it opened up the Charlotte’s fiction; it cast it in a new light. It strengthened the sense of layers in her writing. Layers that draw in politics along with narrative (a novel, she says, must be colourful, a good page turner, but also have ideas buried down the engine room. It is also clear that her fiction, and fiction in general, must have some kind of empathy, and that is exactly what Charlotte delivers.

Bob Harvey drew us in to his autobiography with the help of a slide show. It was very moving, nostalgic even, as he drew you into the heart of his life and of politics. It seems to me that we have so much to protest about at the moment, so much that seems vulnerable (The School Journal, our private lives, our heritage, the freedom for children to learn through play and take risks, those that cannot afford to feed their families, the land and the sea). Charlotte also said that it is important that fiction asks the right questions (not necessarily providing answers). After hearing Bob I drove home wondering how our politicians are serving us today.

Today, at 11.15,  Peter Bland and I are conversing and traversing our topic: Here comes that childhood pond again. We are talking about the world of childhood and poetry in general.

Then at 5pm the magnificent Tusiata Avia will perform some of her poetry. I would love to see Auckland poets show their support of this Christchurch star and come and listen. She is worth hearing.

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giveaway results on Poetry Shelf


To celebrate this weekend’s Going West Festival I offered two books as giveaways.

Thanks to Steele Roberts, Poetry-Shelf follower kiwiscan is getting a copy of Peter Bland’s Collected Poems.

And I have copy of my recent poetry collection The Baker’s Thumbprint for Anna Crow.

Can you email your postal addresses please?



A Peter Bland giveaway to celebrate Going West Literary Festival


This weekend is the Going West Literary Festival – a feast of words in Titirangi Village. I have been going to this festival for years, mostly sitting in the audience listening to New Zealand authors on a range of subjects from birds to explorers to poetry to storytelling. I have witnessed some very special performances: Bill Manhire reading ‘Hotel Emergencies,’ Chris Price and Nigel Cox delivering keynote addresses, Allen Curnow reading poems, his son Wystan reading poems. Jenny Bornholdt, Steve Braunias, Martin Edmond, Anne Salmond, Tusiata Avia, Selina Tusitala Marsh … it is an absolute treat.

To me this is New Zealand’s family festival that still runs without excess formality and still slides back the doors for morning tea, lunch and supper. You get to eat lunch on the same bench as your favourite fiction writer and a poetry fan from Albany. Altogether special.

This weekend I feel very honoured to be the Curnow Reader on Friday night, and on Saturday morning to have a conversation with Peter Bland on the joys of writing poetry for children, and poetry in general. I have a spare copy of Peter Bland’s Collected Poems : 1956 – 2011 to give to someone who likes this post (randomly selected).

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When: Saturday 14th September 11.15am: Here comes that childhood pond again: Peter Bland and Paula Green traverse the world of childhood and poetry in general.

I reviewed Peter’s new collection briefly in The New Zealand Herald here.

NZ Books review of Collected Poems by Michael Hulse here.

Listener interview here.

New Zealand Book Council entry on Peter Bland here.

Peter talks to NZ Poetry Box here.

Review of Peter’s children’s poetry collection The Night Kite here.