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Going West is a festival that devotes itself 100 per cent to showcasing an eclectic range of New Zealand writers: local, ultra-local (Westies), from out of Auckland. It draws upon fiction, poetry and nonficton and never fails to delight.
Due to the fire in the roof of Titirangi hall the festival moved into the beautiful ex Waitakere council chambers – better parking, not so far to drive for me, excellent green room, cosy space for sessions but I missed the hall and the bush and the village. As a temporary last minute venue – which must have been such stress on the team – it worked just fine.
As usual the food and shared conversations were excellent. Usually I go the whole weekend – but this year, just the Friday night and Saturday was possible. It means I sadly miss out on a suite of sessions today.
On Friday night we got to see our new Poet Laureate, Selina Tusitala Marsh in performance and, just as she sparks the poetic hearts of students in South Auckland (and elsewhere), she sparked the poetic hearts of festival goers. She delivered her Laureate ‘thank you’ speech again, a speech which acknowledges the people that have supported her, in the form of a list poem. She read her poem for the Queen with generous anecdotes to accompany it along with the revenge poem (he who shall not be named did not shake her hand), and the poem on three Queens, the last being Alice Walker.
The tokotoko was passed round for everyone to touch and imbue the stick with individual mana. Skin prickling for so many of us.
Every New Zealand Poet Laureate has gifted something to poetry fans. Selina, one of our beloved poetry icons, with the charisma of Sam Hunt, Hone Tuwhare and Glenn Colquhoun, is one of the most important Laureate choices to date. Those of us lucky enough to hear her on Friday night, will know just what treasures we have in store. It matters, as she says, that she is a brown face. It matters to every brown poet, every fledgling brown poet, and every student white and brown, who has yet to discover the liberating power of poetry.
It matters because Selina’s poetry shows how words can make music in the air, build vital connections to heart and mind, and challenge how we view the world.
If you get a chance to see her over the next few years – take it!
In a perfect and unplanned arc, Bill Manhire, our first Poet Laureate, and another beloved poetry icon, was part of the final session of the night. With jazz musician Norman Meehan, vocalist Hannah Griffin and Blair Latham on sax, we got to hear tracks from their new collaboration: Small Holes in the Silence. I have heard them before but the magic intensifies if anything on a subsequent hearing. The alchemy of word, musical score and manuka-honey voice is simply exquisite. It is absolutely breathtaking.
The next day, in our session, I described how listening to their new album/book, Tell Me My Name, is like a flotation aid. You listen and you lift above domestic routine, chores, head clutter. So yes, I floated home, adrift still in the after-effects.
Saturday was a long day, a good day. I had only managed a few hours sleep for various reasons so felt like I was in between here and there, wwhich is the theme of the festival. On the way I passed so many ALTERNAT ROUTE signs I wondered if I would find my way home through all the detours that might then be in place. I felt like I was entering a found-poem trap and I would get stuck in it.
Sitting on stage with Bill and Norman for our session was a bit like sitting in a cafe – I wanted Norman to hit the keyboard and play melodies here and there. I loved the idea of him playing something while we listened to see what word score unfolded in our heads. The inverse of Norman taking Bill’s poem and seeing what melody surfaces. It was fun to talk – people just happened to be listening!
Sadly I missed Diana Witchel and Steve Braunias – but I am going to make up for that and read the book: Driving to Treblinka. The audience loved this session.
I did hear Dame Anne Salmond in conversation with Moana Maniapoto and it was for many of us, an extraordinary thing. The conversation just flowed – it felt unafraid of anything: wisdom, human warmth, tough stuff, vulnerabilities, empathy.
In 1960 Anne met Māori and asked herself: ‘How come I’ve grown up in this country and know nothing about these people and this world?’
Eruera Stirling advised her: ‘If you are really interested in Māori Studies then the marae is the university for you.’
Anne: ‘I am a scholar but there’s a lot of stuff you can’t learn with your mind – you have to learn through your skin.’
Anne: doesn’t necessarily agree with the idea of one world with different views but prefers perhaps the idea of a ‘mulitverse with different realities.’
Anne: ‘You can’t be an expert on the Treaty if you can’t speak Māori.’ She said it would be like someone who couldn’t speak French acting as an expert on the French constitution.
Anne: ‘If the river is dying I am too.’
This is why I am both a reader and writer and a festival attendee. Because someone like Anne in conversation with someone like Moana can blast apart my thinking and feeling.
I have a copy of Tears of Rangi by my bed to read.
I got to hear Sarah Laing and Johanna Emeney read and talk. I have to say I love both the books (Mansfield and Me and Family History) and have written about both. I love the way they showed that poetry/memoir does not need to stick to facts (Airini Beautrais said the same thing in her interview with me). The gold of this session was hearing the multi-talented Sarah read an extract with an enviable array of accents. Wow!
Loved hearing tastes of Pip Adams and Kirsten McDougall’s new novels – and the way the unreal can unravel the real in such innovative ways. They worked double hard not to spoil the reading experience, for those of us who still have the treat in store, by giving too much away. Just little tempting clues.
Loved hearing the very articulate Linda Cassells talk about the genesis of the Allen Curnow biography she edited after the death of her husband, Terry Sturm, and the way Bill Manhire stepped into the gap, with CK Stead ill, read us a few poems, and shared a few anecdotes.
Thanks Going West. This was one very good festival – I was delighted to participate as both reader and writer.
This is an excellent programme with the usual eclectic array of NZ voices/writers.
Poetry at Going West:
Plus this little run of highlights:
And many more!
My Place/ View
‘Now our literature shapes how we see ourselves and our cultures – challenging stereotypes’
Albert Wendt Going West 2016
There was a lot of talk about place and where you come from at Going West this year. I live in West Auckland but seem to come from many places so don’t think of myself as a West Aucklander. I have anchors here and anchors elsewhere, but I have strong attachments to my local literary festival. I like the way it embraces a literary whanau. We share very good food and we share stories.
Like other New Zealand writers I am very grateful for the local festivals that celebrate local writing no matter the degree of international presence. Earlier this year I flew to Wellington to see The National Library’s fabulous Circle of Laureates event. It was a very special occasion but I was hard-pressed to find many other local fiction or poetry events at the festival. I see this as such a loss – not just for Wellington readers and writers but for all of us.
Auckland seems to be upping its game at their major festival. The dedication to New Zealand writing of all ilks is tremendous. It is a huge festival, overwhelming in terms of crowds and choice, but every year I come away rejuvenated as both reader and writer.
Going West is one of our key local festivals — 100 per cent devoted to New Zealand writing that crosses a range of genre, subject matter and format. This year was no exception. With new programme directors (Nicola Strawbridge and Mark Easterbrook) things were slightly different but the end result immensely satisfying. My only regret was the little poetry slots that used to pop up between longer sessions. I missed those.
The sun shone, the food was as good as ever, and I came away with a stack of books to read. Hearing Damien Wilkins read from Dad Art (two extracts) and share ideas and anecdotes with Sue Orr was so good, I raced to get the book. I loved the detail, the humour, the premise of the book, the absolute warmth and human pulse. This book deserves a wide readership.
I got to hear Emma Neale read as the Curnow Reader with her pitch-perfect melody, tender eye and acute detail of family (among other things). Emma was also in conversation with Siobhan Harvey about her new novel, Billy Bird, and again an extract from the book and a fascinating conversation made me race to get the book. Already I am drawn to this curious boy who thinks he is a bird. Emma will also read from this at The Ladies LiteraTea in October.
Albert Wendt gave a terrific speech on Friday night that rattled our literary complacency. Where are the Pacific voices? he asked with both fire and poetry in his belly.
I missed the Poetry Slam but saw Robert Sullivan in conversation with Gregory Kan and Serie Barford. Thoughtful questions that included rocks, sediment and the thorny issue of revealing family. I came away thinking if I were a book-award judge this year I would honour This Paper Boat as it resonates so deeply with me.
Then there are the sessions you have no familiarity with. I loved a session on NZ rivers, for example, and came home with books on that topic (Dr Marama Muru-Lanning).
I ended the festival (I missed the beer session sadly) with the conversation between John Campbell and Roger Shepherd. A perfect close for me because it took me right back to listening to music in Auckland in the 1980s when I wasn’t listening to music in London (82-86). It was funny and sad and surprising and nostalgic and inspiring. How lucky we are to have John on National Radio bringing us stories that matter and ask questions that matter even more.
Thanks Going West. It was a privilege to be a small part of your festival on stage and a member of the audience over three days. I came away exhausted yet full. Festivals like this ( I am thinking of the ones in Nelson and Wanaka too) matter. Congratulations team – it was a fine occasion – like a family picnic in a way. There was warmth, prickly questions, delicious connections, challenging ideas, good stories told, a generosity of ear and mouth. Bravo!
PS I went early one morning so I could breakfast on delicious Turkish eggs at Deco, the Lopdell House cafe. Great view. Very good food and coffee! Highly recommended.
Paula Green & Harry Ricketts at the Going West Books & Writers Festival 2009.
Photo: Gil Hanly, Going West Trust Archives.
(fascinating photo! my little notebook, finger pointing, yep he’s the poet up tonight!)
I love this family festival. I love the sliding doors opening in the breaks and everyone tucking into food and conversation like one big poetry family. I love the eclectic programme and the way you can sit back in the same chair and get taken on a thousand voyages. Three cheers to the hard-working Going West team. I am honoured to be part of the festival, on your 20th celebration.
This year you hear:
7.20 In Remembrance: Glenn Colquhoun
7.30 Curnow Reader: Harry Ricketts
8.20 Myths and Legends of the Ancient Pakeha: Glenn Colquhoun
8.30pm Poetry Slam (Harry, Glenn and I are judges)
9.30 am The Poetry of Place: Kerry Hines and Leilani Tamu in conversation with me
GOING WEST FESTIVAL POETRY SLAM 2014
CALLING SPOKEN WORD ARTISTS AND PERFORMANCE POETS!
On Saturday 13 September at 8pm, the annual Going West Poetry Slam takes place at the Titirangi War Memorial Hall.
Directed by Doug Poole and assisted by MC Zane Scarborough. Guest judges Selina Tusitala Marsh, Grace Taylor and Ben Brown.
The Grand Final prizes:
There will be four heats and one Grand Final. Three finalists from each heat will compete in the Grand Final.
East and South
Friday 29 August, 6-8pm at Fresh Gallery Otara, Shop 5, 46 Fairmall, Otara Town Centre.
North and Central
Thursday 4 September, 5-7.30pm at Central City Library, 44 – 46 Lorne Street, Auckland Central.
Saturday 6 September, 7-9.30pm at Corban Estate Arts Centre, 2 Mt Lebanon Lane, Henderson.
Fourth and Final Heat
A fourth heat will take place on Poetry Slam Grand Final night, Saturday 13 September, registrations from 7.30.pm for an 8pm start. There are a limited number of registrations available for this heat.
Poetry Slam Grand Final, Saturday 13 September, Titirangi War Memorial Hall, 8pm.
Register to perform from 7.30pm.
Email for information: firstname.lastname@example.org Ph: 021 02794173
Going West Poetry Slam Director Doug Poole: Dougpoole3@gmail.com
Tickets: eventfinder.co.nz Going West Festival: www.goingwestfest.co.nz
Media enquiries: Angela Radford: email@example.com Ph: 0275 401104
Associated Youth Event – WORD UP!
Corban Estate Arts Centre and Going West Books and Writers Festival, are proud to present WORDUP! 2014.
Word Up is an exciting word-based performance competition which gives 13-20 year-olds the opportunity to present their original work in any word based genre, from rap, poetry, spoken word, music or even stand-up comedy.
* The Word Up! winner will perform at the Poetry Slam Grand Final.
For Word-Up Development Workshops and Audition details: www.ceac.org.nz/youth_arts/word_up!.aspx