Tag Archives: Paula Green

Poetry Shelf on Poetry Day: On launching Wild Honey

 

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Last week I launched Wild Honey in Auckland and Wellington and I have never experienced anything like it. It was a long time in the making – four years writing and researching – and several decades reading New Zealand poetry and germinating ideas. I faced all kinds of hurdles – notably a string of accidents and illnesses – that made the project tougher. But ever since I was a young girl words have been a primary love. Writing gives me energy, it makes me feel good, it connects me with the world when I am primarily drawn to a quiet, private life. Through my schooling years you would have to say I was misfit – for all kinds of reasons – and I had little confidence in what I could do. To be an awkward teenager and have my Y12 English teacher tell me in front of the whole class I would never get anywhere in the world writing as I did was a cruel blow. I pretty much failed school and all my writing was stored in secret notebooks.

A turning point for me was going to university in my thirties and studying Italian. I first thought I would do one paper but I ended up doing full degrees until there were no more to do. Moving into another language was the best thing I could have done. I loved reading Italian literature, watching Italian movies, spending time with the ideas and art of the Renaissance, and the women poets, but the language itself was an essential joy. To speak in different rhythms and musicalities (always rhyme) was an epiphany.  To read Dante, Calvino, Ramondino, Durante and copious women poets and novelists refreshed my relationship with English. I just had to write poetry. I still didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere but writing was both my anchor and my sails. I discovered the poetry of Dinah Hawken (Small Stories of Devotion in particular), Fiona Farrell and Michele Leggott, and so began my personal quest to read as much New Zealand poetry as possible. I read poems regardless of gender but I was committed to reading poetry by women because poetry by women had been served so badly throughout the twentieth century.

I want to thank my extraordinary Italian lecturers with whom I studied, wrote theses and taught – Bernadette Luciano, Mike Hanne and Laurence Simmonds – who allowed an awkward nonconforming student to find her way and excel. Wild Honey is in such debt to you. My Italian years shaped me as a writer unlike any other.

And now Wild Honey is out in the world. I have created events to celebrate its arrival,  done interviews with attentive reviewers and am watching the book find its way into the hands of readers. It is both wonderful and overwhelming. Nerve wracking. Exciting. Exhausting. Energising.

I don’t know how to explain it but there is still a bit of that shy awkward girl in me – who favours staying at home with family and having one-on-one conversations with friends rather than big social / public occasions.

At my launches I invited around twelve poets to read one of their own poems and a poem they love by a local woman. In the middle I had a brief conversation with Selina Tusitala Marsh (Akld) and Helen Heath (Wtn). In both cities the poets reading offered a kōrero: for me, for the book, but most importantly for women. And they were all speaking from the heart; starting with the book but going beyond the book. Helen suggested that Wild Honey was just the beginning. More books would be written. More houses built. I love the prospect of different perspectives, different houses, different structures, different voices.

Dinah picked out the word ‘household’ and talked about the way Wild Honey was ‘holding’ women together. To me it felt like the whole room was ‘held’. In Wellington the readers crossed generations: from Fiona Kidman, Rachel McAlpine and Dinah Hawken to Sugar Magnolia Wilson, Tayi Tibble and Gregory Kan (reading one of his magnificent Robin Hyde poems). I can’t underestimate how significant this was: to have our poetry elders embracing our young voices and to have our young poets blown away by women who have paved the way. The audience too was a terrific gathering of poets of multiple generations.

It made me want to do more – to bring poets together across generations, cultures, styles, schools, cities and so on. To pay attention to the way poetry is multiple conversations, connections, communities.

In Wellington, mid event, Anahera Gildea got on her phone and asked Hinemoana Baker to send her Ihumātao poem from Berlin. Hinemoana was now in the room. We loved that. We were crossing oceans and then being carried to the whenua where poets are gathering. A similar thing happened when Grace Iwashita Taylor read in Auckland.

A key point with Wild Honey is that poetry establishes many resistances, homages, repetitions, discoveries, existences, differences, residencies. It is ‘an open home’ to borrow a phrase from Sally Blundell’s terrifically attentive Listener review.

At my Wellington launch I confessed I had deleted all the toxic anecdotes from Wild Honey – the scenes where men have muted or sideswiped me or other women – because I wanted my book to work differently. I wanted my book to lay down a challenge, not through toxic attack and deconstruction, but by writing out of love and connection. Is it possible? Can you write a book that challenges authority and injustice by writing out of kindness? Can you refresh the academic page by creating hybrid books that call upon scholarship, research, autobiography, biography, history, close reading, a resistance to vapid jargon and women-deleting theory? My time with Italian women writers and philosophers showed me you can think and write outside the academy as well inside it.

That night, the night of my Wellington event, I was awake pretty much until dawn, overwhelmed by the aroha in the room and musing on my book and its intentions. I started crying without knowing why. I was thinking that sometimes we do have to challenge authority and injustice in strident voices. I should have said that out loud. I was also mourning the exceptional women who aren’t in my book – the rooms and objects I had to leave behind. In the middle of the night it feels unbearable.

In the light of day when I am still overwhelmed and astonished at what I have written, I keep returning to the idea that Wild Honey comes out of the awkward girl and the love she felt for words and their power to restore and energise and connect.

In Auckland we were running over time (not excessively!); everyone was saying things that needed to be said but, because we were in Auckland Central Library with an 8pm closing time, I felt I needed to ditch my conversation with Selina. The kōrero to that point was heartlifting. Young Pasifika women acknowledging their place in the room, in Wild Honey and in poetry communities. Courtney Sina Meredith began the event by reading a  poem by her favourite poet, her mother Kim who was in the room. Johanna Emeney concluded the event by reading a poem that pays tribute to her mother, no longer with her, and Elizabeth Smither’s ‘My mother’s house’. A maternal full circle. Breathtaking, evocative, moving. Each poet invited another woman into the room through the poems they picked (Tusiata Avia, Lauris Edmond, J C Sturm, Robin Hyde, for example).

At the mid point, when I told Selina we needed to ditch our conversation, she stood up, pulled me next to her heart and said we were going to talk. She said, however, before we talked, she and I would stand in silence for 30 seconds and then invited everyone to send me their love. I have never experienced anything like it. A packed room looking back at me with warm, loving faces. People I didn’t know. People I did. I was reminded that when I was in the radiotherapy machine I had imagined a cocoon of light spinning around me and I attached each hug I had received to the spinning light and the cocoon became one of love and when I left the room I felt light and enlivened.

Wild Honey is bigger than me. On the day of my Auckland launch I baked a loaf of bread as I usually do each day (I bake grainy seedy breads in a bread maker and sour dough loaves).  But I had forgotten to put in yeast, sugar and salt so I baked a hard brick! I began musing on how Wild Honey was like a sour dough loaf. l gathered flour, salt and water but it was activated by the wild yeast in the air. There is something in the air – I’d say globally – voices that are insisting women are brought into the light: in politics, sports, comedy, music, literature, film, law, human rights, equity, equality, education, positions of power, on airspace and so on.

Wild Honey is not just a matter of what, as Selina said, but a matter of how. If we are trying to govern out of kindness, we can also critique out of kindness. There is a woman holding the pen and her ink is imbued with her story, her imagination, her vision of what a poem might do, of what the world can be. I want to move closer to that woman. I don’t like all the poetry I read, I might not understand all the poetry I read, but I will slow down and  find ways to move through a poem. I refuse the position of authority – I am an author minus the ‘ity’ bit.

That reviewers such as Kiran Dass (The Herald) and Sally Blundell (New Zealand Listener) have slowed down and read Wild Honey on its own terms has moved me profoundly.

Soon I hope to sleep through the night again – but today on Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day I want to acknowledge everyone who made Wild Honey possible. Massey University Press and Nicola Legat who worked with such passion and patience to make the best book possible. My friends and family who got me through all manner of hurdles with enduring support. I hit rock bottom writing this book as my friends know and the end result would not be possible without their aroha and backing.

But most importantly, on this day when we celebrate poets and poetry in Aotearoa, I raise a glass of champagne to all the women who have written poems before me, all the women who write alongside me, and to the poets of the future, whatever their gender. My book is in debt to your wild honey. Today I toast you. Happy National Poetry Day!

Aroha nui

Paula

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf Classic Poem: Fiona Farrell picks Paula Green’s ‘Glenburn’

 

Glenburn

 

Even in the face of an icy wind, the stillness

dazzles us, and we journey south to the dulcet honey.

He falls silent, the din left destitute, far

from the hive. The sound of his laugh, it rises

and becomes music, a vein of sun that is in him

 

like a mountain. Appearances remain objects of barter.

All the calm. All that fury. We cross a threshold

to witness the unbidden cloud. Our chamber of words

sweetened as if made of honey or beeswax,

for we arrive at last, the smell now in him of hive.

 

We will eat bread and cheese, forgetting the northern

city, the pull of the ocean. He moves with his sight

fixed on stillness, finding a fickle appearance

like a star behind slow speech. All that fury. All that calm.

Where will we find the scale of love? The journey south

 

undoes the mountain of cloud. His own incubus

the riddle that is land. We are certain that buildings

will appear in the stillness, kept alive by our eyes.

 

Paula Green

from Crosswind, Auckland University Press, 2004. Also published in Dear Heart: 150 NZ Love Poems, Random House, 2012.

 

Note from Fiona Farrell

My favourite poem? I had enough trouble selecting 25 recently for the IIML annual anthology.

So, a single poem? Should it be one that has repeatedly popped into my head at odd intervals over many years, a single line, a phrase, one of those little handgrips that keeps me from falling? Should it be a poem that belongs so strongly to a time I like going back to in my mind, that it arrives fully packed and tagged to memory? Or the one that touched me so much because it was a gift from a friend and unexpected and it said something I loved hearing? Or the one that was very old and strange? Or the one that made something I knew well gleam with newness so I noticed it again as if it was for the first time? Or the one I read this morning that has left the day feeling just great?

I’ll go with that: Paula Green’s ‘Glenburn’ because it speaks to the strangeness I feel moving to Otago again after many years absence. And to the feeling of discovering it – and it might as well be for the first time – in the company of someone I love who has other eyes to bring to the journey south. And to my knowledge of Michael Hight’s paintings of beehives, so there is an illustration – not any one painting, but many – lurking beside the words.

And it speaks too to a feeling that’s been growing steadily since I came here, that it’s all so fragile, this beautiful golden south. Last night I talked to a woman fighting subdivisions in Arrowtown. ‘It’s going,’ she said. ‘Queenstown, and Wanaka and Arrowtown and the lakes.’ Pockmarked with 400 house subdivisions, an airport proposal which could go anywhere, hotels and resorts and dairy conversions.

This poem of Paula’s makes me think about love: for people and for a landscape.

 

 

Fiona Farrell publishes fiction, non-fiction, poetry and drama. She lived for many years at Otanerito on Banks Peninsula but has moved recently to Dunedin.

Paula Green has just published two new poetry collections (Groovy Fish, The Cuba Press) and (The Track, Seraph Press) with Wild Honey: Reading NZ Women’s Poetry (Massey University Press) out early August.

 

 

 

 

 

2017 Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement announced

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Paula Green, Peter Simpson (photo: Marti Friedlander), Witi Ihimaera.

 

 

Creative New Zealand has announced the winners of the 2017 Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement. They are internationally renowned Māori novelist Witi Ihimaera, literary historian and fine arts writer Peter Simpson and popular poet and children’s author Paula Green.

Each will be awarded $60,000 in recognition of their outstanding contribution to New Zealand literature. Witi Ihimaera will be honoured for fiction, Dr Peter Simpson for non-fiction, and Dr Paula Green for poetry.

Arts Council Chair Michael Moynahan said, “Our congratulations to this year’s recipients who are being recognised for their extraordinary legacy of literary achievement. As leaders in their respective crafts, they have engaged New Zealand readers with their story telling and have inspired other New Zealand writers to build on their literary legacy.”

The awards will be presented at a ceremony at Premier House in Wellington, on Wednesday 9 August. The 2017 Creative New Zealand Michael King Writer’s Fellowship winner, Dr Philip Norman, will also be honoured at the ceremony.

The Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement were established in 2003. Every year New Zealanders are invited to nominate their choice of a writer who has made a significant contribution to New Zealand literature in the genres of non-fiction, poetry and fiction. New Zealand writers are also able to nominate themselves for these awards.

Nominations are assessed by an expert literary panel and recommendations forwarded to the Arts Council of Creative New Zealand for approval.  This year’s selection panel was Rachael King, Nicola Legat, David Eggleton and Briar Grace-Smith.

A full list of previous recipients can be found on the Creative New Zealand website.

The Creative New Zealand Michael King Writer’s Fellowship is open to established writers of any literary genre who have already published a significant body of work. Valued at $100,000, it is awarded annually for a project that will take two or more years to complete.

 

Creative New Zealand and Unity Books invite you to a free literary event

The recipients of the 2017 Prime Ministers Awards for Literary Achievement will read and discuss their work with author Kate De Goldi.

This is a free event at Unity Books, 57 Willis Street, Wellington on Thursday 10 August, 12.30-1.15pm. All welcome. More info: http://bit.ly/2uD2ATe

 

For media enquiries, please contact:

Jasmyne Chung
Senior Communications & Advocacy Adviser
Creative New Zealand
jasmyne.chung@creativenz.govt.nz
M: 027 838 8868 | DDI: (04) 498 0727

 

 

2017 Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement – Fiction

Witi Tame Ihimaera-Smiler, DCNZM, QSM (Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Auckland, born Gisborne)

Born in Gisborne, Witi Ihimaera is a novelist, short story writer, filmmaker, anthologist, librettist and playwright. He is of Te Whānau a Kai, Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Porou and Tūhoe descent. He has the distinction of being the first Māori writer, in 1972, to publish both a book of short stories and a novel. His novel, The Whale Rider, became an internationally successful feature film and Māori Boy: A Memoir of Childhood won the General Non-Fiction Award at the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. His most recent books are Black Marks on the White Page, co-edited with Tina Makereti, and Sleeps Standing, with te reo translation by Hemi Kelly, about the Battle of Orakau.

Regarded as one of the world’s leading indigenous writers, Witi has held numerous writing residencies and fellowships. He holds an Honorary Doctorate from Victoria University of Wellington, and in 2009 he was honoured as an Arts Foundation of New Zealand Laureate as well as the supreme Māori arts award Te Tohu mō Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu at the Creative New Zealand Te Waka Toi Awards. He was named a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2004. Last month the French Government appointed him a French Knight of the order of arts and letters (Chevalier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres) for his contribution to literature.

The selection panel described Witi as one of New Zealand’s most important post-colonial writers, who has consistently proved to be an outstanding storyteller, celebrated as a voice for Māoritanga and a literary leader.

 

2017 Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement – Poetry

Dr Paula Green, MNZM (Auckland)

Paula Green is a poet, reviewer, anthologist, children’s author, book awards judge and blogger. She has published ten poetry collections, including several for children. In 2017, she was admitted to The New Zealand Order of Merit for Services to poetry and literature.

Paula has also co-edited a number of highly regarded anthologies, including 99 Ways into New Zealand Poetry, with Dr Harry Ricketts, which was short-listed for the 2010 NZ Post Book Awards. She runs two influential poetry blogs, NZ Poetry Box and NZ Poetry Shelf, and has been a judge for the NZ Post Book Awards, the NZ Post Secondary School Poetry Competition, and the inaugural Sarah Broom Poetry Prize in 2014.

Her recent publications include a collection of her own poems for children, The Letterbox Cat and Other Poems, which won Children’s Choice at the 2015 NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, and an anthology of children’s verse, A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children. Her latest adult collection, New York Pocket Book, was published in 2016.

Paula has a Doctorate in Italian and was Literary Fellow at The University of Auckland (2005). She is a regular guest in New Zealand literary festivals and frequently performs and undertakes workshops in schools from Year 0 to 13.

The selection panel said Paula stood out amongst the nominees for this year’s Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Excellence in Poetry as an accomplished all-rounder, with special distinction as an author of children’s poetry. They described her as “a significant figure in New Zealand poetry as an anthologist and commentator” and as a leading poet.

 

2017 Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement – Non-fiction

 

Dr Peter Simpson (Auckland, born Takaka)

Peter Simpson is a writer, editor, critic, curator and academic who has been writing about New Zealand literature, art and culture for more than 50 years. His first book, on Ronald Hugh Morrieson, was published in 1982; since then he has published eight sole-authored books, edited 12 other books, made substantial contributions to 25 other titles, published more than 100 articles in journals in New Zealand and overseas, and scores of reviews in newspapers, periodicals, scholarly journals and online.

He has taught at several universities in New Zealand and Canada between 1964 and 2008. Peter was co-founder and director of Holloway Press, 1993 -2013, publishing some 40 books. He has curated six exhibitions on Leo Bensemann and Colin McCahon for Hocken Collections, Auckland Art Gallery, Christchurch Art Gallery, Lopdell House Gallery and New Zealand Portrait Gallery.

Peter was awarded the 2012 Creative New Zealand Michael King Writer’s Fellowship. The book written during that Fellowship, Bloomsbury South: The Arts in Christchurch 1933-1953, was shortlisted for the illustrated non-fiction category of the 2017 Ockham NZ Book Awards.

The selection panel said Peter’s many books and other writing attest to his ability – both as a literary historian and as a writer on the fine arts – and that he has contributed significantly to the nation’s literary culture over many years.

2017 Michael King Writer’s Fellowship

 

Dr Philip Norman, CNZM (Christchurch)

Award-winning author and composer Dr Philip Norman has compiled three editions of the Bibliography of New Zealand Compositions, including biographies of some 120 New Zealand composers and descriptions of 4,000 of their works.

He has co-authored, edited or contributed to numerous other books and publications on New Zealand music. From 1980-1991 he was the principal music reviewer for The Press in Christchurch, writing more than 700 reviews.

In addition to being a writer Philip has composed more than 250 works, from orchestral, chamber music and opera through to choral works, musicals and ballet. He composed music for Footrot Flats, New Zealand’s best-selling musical, and for the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s successful Peter Pan, which is shortly to receive a repeat season in Perth, Australia.

About the Michael King Fellowship 2017:

The $100,000 Michael King Fellowship has been awarded to Dr Phillip Norman to create a history of New Zealand composers and their work from the start of European settlement to present day. Philip will use the fellowship to complete a lifetime of work studying New Zealand classical music identifying influential composers, works and performances, and tracing key developments through the decades.

 

Sarah Jane Barnett interviews Paula Green

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Sarah Jane Barnett recently interviewed me about my new collection, New York Pocket Book. The shoe was on the foot, for a change! I really enjoyed the questions.  Took me right back to New York!

For the complete interview go here.

SJB: The poems in New York Pocket Book touch on the idea that the experience of being a tourist can give us a new way to see and experience ourselves. The collection’s main character, Josephine, closely observes her new experiences – the ‘American accent dipping and pausing,’ the ‘Manhattan sky.’ The idea works on two levels, with Josephine experiencing New York and with the reader experiencing Josephine. Can you speak to this idea in terms of your poetry? Do you see the poem as a way to provide a reader with a new experience of themselves?

PG: Perhaps any book refreshes our view of ourselves to varying degrees, but I really like the multiple reading experiences you have spotted. Learning another language for years, I always felt I wore my clothes slightly differently, that I had licence to be a slightly different person. I get that feeling when I stay in foreign cities. I am both myself and not myself. I eat things I might not normally eat. My daily routine goes out the window. So is it a stretch to say the reader in entering a book that is anchored in an iconic place, triggers different relations with the world and self? I don’t know but it’s a fascinating idea. One of the upshots of learning another language, is the way you learn more about your own language. Conversely, when someone speaks a foreign language they always leave clues about their mother tongue. When we experience a new city, we open windows on the familiar as much as we do the unfamiliar. So perhaps the poem is the surrogate new city, the surrogate new language.

Josephine is somewhat elusive. You are right in that you view her through a New York filter (and vice versa) and everything else lands in accidental traces. Some readers might crave more of her backstory but I resisted that. There are some red-hot traces though hiding away. This is a pocket book after all.

THE BOOK SHOW ON FACE TV TONIGHT AT 8.30PM includes a bit of poetry

The Bookman teams up again tonight with bookseller Carole Beu for another session of author interviews, book reviews and news.

Face TV is Sky Channel 83. If you don’t have Sky or miss the show then it will be linked here and here tomorrow morning. The show also screens on Thursday October 2nd at 12.30pm on Face TV.

This week Graham Beattie is talking to crime fiction author Paul Thomas while Carole chats to poet/author Paula Green.

My Christchurch travel diary

Yesterday I left home when it was dark which gave me an idea for a poem. Flying down I saw skinny strips of cloud like skinny strips of dental floss.

I drove straight to Rangiora High School from the airport. On the way I discovered Green’s Road. I made up poems with a Year 10 then a Year 9 class that I posted on my other blog, NZ Poetry Shelf. I really loved listening.

And then another idea for a poem because my hotel has a cat. It came and miaowed outside my door as though it knows my new book is called The Letterbox Cat. This cat needs a poem but for now it has a photo.

Yeah NZ Book Council. Thanks for bringing me south!

Talk soon,
Paula

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