Pip Adam talks poetry with Jesse Mulligan
at RNZ National
Therese Lloyd’s The Facts Check out my review
Helen Rickerby‘s poem ‘George Eliot: A Life’ Check out Helen reading an extract
Wonderful! and thanks for the Poetry Shelf plug
Pip Adam talks poetry with Jesse Mulligan
at RNZ National
Therese Lloyd’s The Facts Check out my review
Helen Rickerby‘s poem ‘George Eliot: A Life’ Check out Helen reading an extract
Wonderful! and thanks for the Poetry Shelf plug
Episode 51: Pip Adam talks to Nina Powles about her new work LUMINESCENT
‘In this episode I spoke with one of my favourite Wellington poets Nina Powles. I first spent time with Nina around Helen Rickerby’s table where a group of us were hand-binding copies of her first collection Girls of the Drift.
Nina is an outstanding poet, non-fiction writer and zinemaker. She is half Malaysian-Chinese, half Pākehā. Nina has an MA in creative writing from Victoria University of Wellington and won the 2015 Biggs Family Prize for Poetry for the first draft of Luminescent. She is the author of the chapbook Girls of the Drift (Seraph Press, 2014) and several poetry zines.
Nina’s new work Luminescent is an extraordinary work.’
Paula: I love this collection so much. Here is my review.
Giant Invisible Grandma God
God enters the room as a grandma, a Southern Jewish grandma.
His grandma aroma fills every space.
God enters the room as a grandma and His heavy weight fills the corner
with a wide whump! God is large after all these years.
When He is around there is so little room in this place for anyone else.
He takes up all the space but you can hear the swish from the corner seat
that calls all the grandchildren chicky, pats their heads while saying,
“There, chicky, there now, chickling chickpea chickaree-dee-bee,”
and the click-click of the crochet needle against the knitting loom
as He clicks out hats for all the grandkiddies and I am not
one of those feminists that writes poetry about the goddess within
and ruptures up all this performance art from my menstruations,
no, this is the same patriarchal God you’ve always railed against,
except today He is a grandma and His grandma perfume fills the room
and he says to all His granddaughters,
“Chicky, what colour yarn you want for your hat? You choose, dearie.”
and when they tell him what colour yarn is them most preferable,
takes a different colour and goes on calmly knitting hats, and
now the granddaughters begin to rail against Him, and
with them, me, and all the feminists too,
we all rail and everyone is crying, yelling, all at once,
“No, Savtush! No! I didn’t want the blue one!
I didn’t ask for that! Saaav-TUSH!
I said a yellow one! You’re not listening to me!
You’re not listening! That’s not what I told you,
Savtush! You never listen to me!” and
while the railing rails on, Grandma God is calmly
clicking out hats, smiling sweetly from His corner chair and
His grandma perfume is warm and comforting, and
when He clicks out your hat, chicky, why, isn’t that just
the darlingest hat you ever set your head beneath and
doesn’t it just look so much better than the yarn that was you preferable and
aren’t you just so peacified to be sitting on God in the corner chair
there, your head inside His warm grandma perfume sniffing
His large breasted chest instead of kicking in the middle of the floor and
His smile never changes, it’s the same smile he clicked out his hats with and
He’s calm and warm and Savtush and He never changes because
He’s your great big giant invisible Grandma God.
Note from Pip: Charlotte Simmonds is one of the funniest people I know. I always laugh heartily when we are together. One of her super-powers is puns. For me, puns work because I have to hold two ideas in my head at the same time and there is something destabilising to reality about that state – the horse has a long face and a long face, the socks are holy and holy, the man who swallowed the eight plastic horses is in a stable condition and a stable condition. I have this theory that only language can do this, because a lot of other art forms (film, theatre) unfold in a particular order – one thing following another. But language has this ability to mean two things at once and cause this shimmering effect as the two things come in and out of focus. Which is a long-winded way of saying, this is what I love about ‘Giant Invisible Grandma God’ by Charlotte.
Throughout the poem I have to hold the two ideas of God and Grandma in my head, so it has this volatility to it, this energy. God is knitting hats, grandma is knitting hats. So I find it a very funny poem. I get a lot of joy out of it and that joy opens me up to the ideas in it. The idea of the way God takes up so much space that there is not a lot of room for anyone else. Also, the child in me loves the idea of a huge grandmother squashed into a regular sized world. Another amazing artist Rachel O’Neill once raised the idea that humour is cultural, that it’s one of the ways we enact cultural belonging. Charlotte speaks many languages and I often think that her writing and her sense of humour has this kind of multi-lingualism to it. That it can call on many places and languages for a laugh. That it is performed from a comedy club in the multiverse.
Pip Adam‘s second novel, The New Animals, was released this year. Her debut novel, I’m Working on a Building appeared in 2011, and her short story collection, Everything We Hoped For, won NZ Post Best First Book Award for Fiction. She makes the Better Off Read podcast.
Charlotte Simmonds is a Wellington writer, translator and PhD student who spends her time reading the news and her tears on the elections.
23-25 February 2018
Kāpiti Coast, New Zealand
Immerse yourself in writing and conversation this summer. There’s something for everyone–whether you’re new to writing, an established writer, or somewhere in-between. Happening from 23-25 February 2018 on the beautiful Kāpiti Coast north of Wellington, the Kāpiti Writers’ Retreat is a two-day gathering for writers that encompasses intensive morning workshops, lively discussions and space to write, relax and engage with topics critical to your work.
Kahini is delighted to host six established New Zealand writers–Airini Beautrais, Anahera Gildea, Pip Adam, Rajorshi Chakraborti, Queenie Rikihana-Hyland and Victor Rodger–at the 2018 Kāpiti Writers’ Retreat. Each writer will teach morning workshops: in fiction, poetry, memoir writing and mixed genre. In the afternoons they will lead discussions on topics pertinent to craft and literature in Aotearoa.
You’ll find community, encouragement, and a safe place in which to take artistic risks.
Find out more here
Carry on Writing Memoir with Lynn Jenner
Carry on Writing Memoir is an intensive two day workshop with writer and teacher Lynn Jenner. The workshop is intended for people who have a project underway, are interested in keeping their motivation up and want to keep on developing their writing style. Saturday 25 November 2017 & Saturday 2 December 2017 in Kāpiti. Limit of 12 places. Find out more
Airini Beautrais and Maria McMillan have written up their poetry road trip. I am so hoping this becomes a thing – two poet friends on tour with new books.
both Victoria University Press, 2017
We’ve known each other since the early 2000s, and both of us have been writing poetry for even longer than that. Some common threads in our work include feminism, social justice, environmentalism, and an interest in the possibilities of form. Over a cup of tea one afternoon in Maria’s lounge we agreed that as we both had books coming out this year, we should go on tour. Maria had been working hard in non-poetry related paid gigs, Airini was battling some difficult personal circumstances, and some time on the road reading with other women poets seemed like just what the doctor (of creative writing) ordered.
Somehow the tour got planned amidst the mad mess of everyday life. Sarah Laing kindly agreed to let us use her drawings for promotional purposes. Airini made a DIY poster with the help of scissors, glue, wallpaper and blu-tack. The word went out. The car got packed.
On Friday 14 July Airini held a book launch for Flow: Whanganui River Poems, at the Whanganui regional museum. Maria was the main support act on the night, reading from her recently-released The Ski Flier (Airini had also read at Maria’s launch a month earlier). Jenny Bornholdt read a poem by Joanna Margaret Paul. Other local booklovers read some favourite Whanganui-linked poems. VUP publicist and talented novelist Kirsten McDougall gave a fantastic launch speech.
Accidental ankh, Dannevirke
In the morning it was coffee, porridge and a quick trip to Whanganui’s famous SaveMart ‘The Mill’. Then onto the back roads of the Manawatu with a battered road atlas and smartphones which were largely ignored. We made it over the Pohangina Saddle, and lunched on launch leftovers in Dannevirke, where we discovered a church with a possibly accidental (we think maybe not) ankh – a perfect opportunity for posing with our books. On to Napier where it appeared we had entered a time warp. Airini’s dirty old Honda suddenly looked new alongside the vintage cars sweeping around the waterfront, driven by flappers and dapper gentlemen. The thought occurred to us that it was Deco weekend.
Beattie and Forbes Booksellers with Marty and Emily
Beattie and Forbes Booksellers is a must-visit independent bookstore near the sea in Napier. They opened up on a Saturday evening so we could read, with Marty Smith and Emily Dobson. Old friends and new turned up, along with members of local poetry groups. It seems that anywhere you go in New Zealand, there’ll be a poetry group of some sort, and a reading will draw at least some of them out of the woodwork. A highlight of the evening was Emily reading a poem owing a debt to her young daughter, called ‘Thea’s ‘gina song,’ which ended ‘It’s a ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-BAGINA!’ Both Marty and Emily are accomplished poets and readers and it was a privilege to read alongside them.
Maria at Waiomu Cafe
Sunday 16th we set off from Marty’s picturesque country house, on our big drive through to Thames. The roads had opened, but were still lined with snow. We made it to our reading at Waiomu Beach Café with five minutes to spare. The café is in a beautiful spot and draws in regulars driving around the Coromandel coastal road. It’s run by Maria’s cousin Julie, who was an amazing host. Airini also met some extended family members at the reading. More FM were there, and interviewed us. We read in the outdoor courtyard, adjusting our volume according to the passing traffic. Over the road, a cop issued speeding tickets. A kereru landed in a tree alongside. We posed for more book photos under the pohutukawa, took Julie’s dog for a walk, and enjoyed the scenery.
The Big House, Parnell with Tulia and Emma
Thames seems like the kind of place one could stay in forever, but on Monday morning we carried on to Auckland. We parked the car and went to hear a reading at the Auckland Art Gallery with Steve Toussaint, Simone Kaho, Elizabeth Morton, Johanna Emeney and Michael Morrissey. Everyone read well, but a disgruntled audience member booed, hissed and heckled during question time at the end. Chair Siobhan Harvey did an excellent job of shouting him down. We looked at each other and wondered if this was how poetry readings always went in Auckland. But our reading that evening at the Big House in Parnell, with Simone Kaho and Tulia Thompson, was a very warm and homely affair. Many of the house’s 25 occupants joined us by the fire to listen and talk, and housemate Emma also read some of her poems with us.
Airini at Poetry Live, Auckland
Tuesday night’s gig was Poetry Live, at the Thirsty Dog on K Road. Like the Big House, Poetry Live is an institution that’s been going for decades. We were lucky to be there for the farewell to regular MC Kiri Piahana-Wong. There was a great turnout and the venue and audience were friendly and welcoming. We read by turns in our guest poet slot, feeling like proper rockstars against the backdrop of a drum kit and stage lighting.
By Wednesday we were tired, and ready to head home. We stopped for tea and toasted sandwiches in the Pink Cadillac diner in Turangi. We parted ways at the Desert Road, after which Maria had some variable hitchhiking experiences, and Airini zig-zagged back and forth around the mountains navigating road closures. We’d had a great time and were looking forward to the second leg.
Vic Books in Wellington with Pip and Freya
The next leg kicked off on Friday 28 July with a lunchtime reading at Vic Books. We were joined by superstars Pip Adam, reading from her brand spanking new The New Animals, and Freya Daly Sadgrove, whose poetry is performative and highly entertaining. Maria read her poem, inspired by Pip, ‘In which I attain unimaginable greatness,’ in which the narrator attains superhero powers, achieves amazing feats, and at the end declares ‘This is how I begin. This is my first day.’
Palmerston North with Helen and Jo
Palmerston North City Library on Saturday evening was possibly the highlight of the tour. The library is a great place to read, hosting numerous literary events throughout the year. The big windows feature poems by local Leonel Alvarado, and pedestrians have a way of peering in through the letters, wondering what’s going on in there. We’d decided on a dress up theme of ‘80s trash with our fabulous co-readers Helen Lehndorf and Jo Aitchison, which got us some funny looks in New World, but definitely improved our performances. Helen’s hair was particularly spectacular. We had a small crowd but a great vibe. A kebab and whisky party kept us awake until the wee small hours.
Maria at Hightide Cafe
Helen’s chickens laid us our breakfast, and we revived ourselves with bottomless pots of tea. Maria’s superpowers became evident when she managed to drive us safely to our last gig, Poets to the People at Hightide Café in Paraparaumu. The sun was setting over Kāpiti as we drank coffee and listened to the open mike. Again, this is an event that’s been running for years, and there’s a sense the regulars know and love one another. We went home to a beautiful roast cooked by Maria’s partner Joe. The tour was over, but the fight continues! We had some great conversations in the car over those two weeks, and some good catch-ups with family and friends along the way. There was a lot of fighting talk, a lot of laughter and also a few tears. A big part of the tour was affirming ourselves as poets, mothers and radical women, and by the end of it, our unimaginable greatness was hard to deny.
Airini Beautrais and Maria McMillan, September 2017
my conversation with Airini
my review of The Ski Flier
VUP page for Airini
VUP page for Maria
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.
In a strong year for new writing at Victoria University of Wellington’s International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML), a risk-taking, wildly funny, ‘powerful and troubling’ novel has been awarded the 2016 Adam Foundation Prize in Creative Writing.
Annaleese Jochems, 22, wrote the winning book, And Lower, as part of her 2016 Master of Arts (MA) at the IIML.
“I’m ecstatic and still a little unbelieving at having won. My classmates are a group of deep-feeling, hard-thinking writers and we’re a team now. It’s been a privilege to be involved in their projects and to receive their considered feedback on my novel. Emily Perkins and Pip Adam are both extremely patient, knowledgeable and questioning teacher-supervisors who pushed me to the edge of my brain’s capacity. I’ll never be the same again!” Annaleese says.
Annaleese had been studying writing at the Manakau Institute of Technology in Auckland and moved to Wellington to take up a place on the IIML MA programme.
Supported by Wellingtonians Denis and Verna Adam through the Victoria University Foundation, the $3,000 Adam Prize is awarded annually to an outstanding student in the MA in Creative Writing programme at the IIML.
And Lower tells the dream-like story of two young women who steal money and flee Auckland to live on a boat in the Bay of Islands. It centres on Cynthia, described by one examiner as “a superb character, a creature of pure physical and emotional need,” and her series of misadventures, driven by an erotic fixation and a world-view gleaned from a close study of reality TV. Cynthia wants nothing but love, but when a rival gets in her way the black comedy heats up, and the plot takes a thrilling, violent turn.
Emily Perkins, a senior lecturer at the IIML and co-convenor of this year’s Master’s programme, says it’s been a delight to read the novel as it has developed over the course of the MA.
“Annaleese is an inventive, bold and ambitious writer. She is one of a terrific group of new writers coming through the MA programme, and her exhilarating novel is full of ideas and absurdities that speak to our times. And Lower takes the reader on an unsettling, sometimes hilarious, always surprising ride, rendered with sensory acuity and charm.”
Acclaimed author Tracey Slaughter, an examiner for Annaleese’s thesis, praises: ‘a narrative of delightful originality’ and ‘dazzlingly astute observations’, delivering a ‘slick transition from irony to menace… with lucid, pared-back imagery’.
“Throughout, it is Jochems’ piercing sense of tone which shines. The voice of the piece is always taut, savvy, biting… beautiful.”
An extract from the novel features in the newly launched 2016 edition of literary journal Turbine | Kapohau, available online.
Previous Adam Foundation Prize recipients include authors Eleanor Catton, Catherine Chidgey, Ashleigh Young and Hera Lindsay Bird.