Tag Archives: Robert Sullivan

Ora Nui 3 – a symphonic treat of art and writing

 

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Ora Nui is a journal edited by Anton Blank devoted to Māori experimental literature;  writing that pushes the borders of identity as much if not more than it pushes the ‘how’ of writing. The latest issue draws upon issues of identity, nationhood and migration and includes a diversity voice.  Amy Leigh Wicks and Jan Kemp, for example, place European perspectives alongside those of Vaughan Rapatahana, Reihana Robinson, Robert Sullivan, Jacqueline Carter, Apirana Taylor and Marino Blank.

I think Ora Nui takes apart the whole notion of experimental and transforms it; I am thinking of writing that is testing something out, that might be tethered or prompted by experience, that doesn’t necessarily demolish stylistic traditions, and might have productive talks with them. Experimental writing is often aligned with the avantgarde, however this journal refreshes the experimental page. The journal promotes conversation that tests who and how we are and gives space for voices – some with traditions of marginalisation – to speak from the local and converse with the global. Anton Blank writes: This collection is a glorious celebration of diversity and change.

The cover showcases an image from from Lisa Reihana’s astonishing art installation, Pursuit of Venus (she has assured me we will get to see this again in New Zealand). I have propped the journal on a shelf so I can fall back into her mesmerising work. The image is the perfect gateway into writing that navigates questions of identity and belonging from multiple vantage points.

 

What I love about this journal though is the utter feast of voices and sumptuous artworks –  I cannot think of anything that has challenged, inspired or awed me in such diverse and distinctive ways. The poetry is symphonic in its reach and shifting keys. Here is a small sample of some of the poetry treats – I am till reading! I have just flicked to the back and got hooked on the lines of Robert Sullivan’s fruit poem, Reihana Robinson, Apirana Taylor, Briar Wood …. and then still sipping breakfast coffee, back to the dazzling currents of Reihana (especially ‘What is a nation?’).  I just bought a book of Reihana’s poetry – I am so hoping there is more in the pipeline.

 

Jacqueline Carter‘s  poetry often tenders a political edge. The poems included here underline her ability to get you rethinking things. These poems dig deep and resonate on so many levels.

 

‘The paepae

of the city’s children

 

is littered

with waewae tapu

 

people

who haven’t

 

been welcomed  on

 

people

in fact

 

who aren’t welcome at all’

 

from ‘Aotea Square’ (you just have to read the whole poem!!)

 

 

Rangi Faith pays homage to Janet Frame as he imagines the seat she sits in on a train; I have never read a portrait of Janet quite like this, and I love it.

 

‘When I was six years old

& running around the backyard

of our brick house in King Street,

a train steamed across the old airport

between us and the sea

carrying Janet Frame the poet.’

 

from ‘Janet Frame Passes through Saltwater Creek’

 

Rangi moves further south to pull Hone Tuwhare into a luminous rendering of place.

 

‘this place was always good for a waiata

to sing softly, or loudly if you preferred,

andto drum your tokotoko in time

to the incoming tide

on the earth’s Jurassic skin.’

 

from ‘To Hone at Kaka Point Seven Years On’

 

This is my first encounter with Teoti Jardine‘s poetry and I am struck by its clarity, its fluidity, its striking images.

 

.My Great Great Grandmother

wove her korowai with clouds.

and braided bull kelp lines

to hold the tide.’

 

from ‘Kuihi’

 

Kiri Piahana-Wong ‘s lyrical poetry holds the personal close, with both movement and stillness, little pockets of thought. I was drawn to her recounting Hinerangi’s broken heart and death.

 

‘On the day I died

it rained. Not just any rain,

but rain accompanied by

a sapping, brutal wind

from the southwest, the

kind that wrenches doors

from their hinges,

breaks down trees

and fences.’

 

from ‘On the day I died’

 

Two essays really struck a chord with me:

Dr. Carla Houkamau’s  ‘Māori identity and personal perspective’

Paula Morris’s ‘Of All Places: A Polemic on “International Book Prizes”‘

 

This is a substantial journal, a necessary journal, a must-read issue, and I have still so much left to savour. Bravo, Anton Blank for getting  this writing and this artmaking out where we can see it. I wish I could linger and share my engagement with every piece but must get back to writing my big book. I now have some new women to bring into my writing house. Thank you.

 

 

 

 

The Kathleen Grattan Prize for a Sequence of Poems is now open

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$1000 Poetry Prize announced

International Writers’ Workshop NZ Inc (IWW) is delighted to announce that due to an ongoing bequest from the Jocelyn Grattan Charitable Trust The Kathleen Grattan Prize for a Sequence of Poems will take place again later this year.

The competition is for a cycle or sequence of unpublished poems that has a common link or theme.

The winner will receive The Kathleen Grattan Prize, which is $1000 this year.

IWW is thrilled that poet Robert Sullivan will judge the competition this year.  Robert’s first collection, Jazz Waiata, won the PEN (NZ) Best First Book Award in 1991 and his nine books include the bestselling Star Waka (Auckland UP, 1999), which has been reprinted five times. His poem ‘Kawe Reo / Voices Carry’ is installed in bronze in front of the Auckland City Library. He directed the creative writing programmes at the University of Hawai’i and at Manukau Institute of Technology. See  http://www.anzliterature.com/member/robert-sullivan/ for more.

Robert will conduct a 2-hour workshop on Writing a Poetry Sequence at the Workshop’s meeting venue, the Northcote Point Senior Citizen’s Villa, 119 Queen Street, Northcote Point, Auckland on Tuesday April 18 2017 starting at 10.30am. Visitors are welcome to attend. A $10 visitor entry fee to the workshop is refundable to visitors who join IWW by the third Tuesday in June.

This is the ninth time this poetry competition will be held with previous winners being Michael Giacon (2016) Maris O’Rourke (2015), Julie Ryan (2014), Belinda Diepenheim (2013), James Norcliffe (2012), Jillian Sullivan (2011) Janet Charman and Rosetta Allan (joint winners 2010) and Alice Hooton (2009).

The Kathleen Grattan Prize for a Sequence of Poems is sometimes referred to as the ‘Little Grattan’ as the Jocelyn Grattan Charitable Trust also funds the biennial Kathleen Grattan Award, run by Landfall / Otago University Press.

As per the terms of the bequest, the competition is restricted to IWW members.

For new members to become eligible to enter The Kathleen Grattan Prize for a Sequence of Poems 2017, application for membership must be received by the third Tuesday in June.

The rules for the competition, details of how to join and other activities of the Workshop are available from the IWW website: iww.co.nz

Key Dates
June 20: Last day for new members to join IWW to be eligible to enter The Kathleen Grattan Prize for a Sequence of Poems 2017.

October 3: Closing date for entries in The Kathleen Grattan Prize for a Sequence of Poems 2017.

November 21: Announcement of the winner of The Kathleen Grattan Prize for a Sequence of Poems 2017.

For further information about the Prize or about IWW in general, contact IWW President Sue Courtney, email iww-writers@outlook.com or phone (09) 426 6687.

Three cheers for Going West’s 21st

 

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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.

 

My two poetry readings to launch my new book feature some of my favourite poets

Like so many poets, I loathe people making speeches about me or my work. Much better to stage a poetry reading and celebrate the pull of cities.

My new poetry collection comes out of ten exceptional days I spent in New York with my family awhile ago. So I have invited a bunch of poets I love to read city poems by themselves and others. Big line-ups but it will free flow and leave time for wine and nibbles.

Once I got to fifteen I realised what poetry wealth we have in these places. I could have hosted another 15  in each place easily. That was so reassuring.

If I had time and money, I would have staged similar events in Christchurch and Dunedin where there bundles of poets I love too.

Please share if you have the inclination.

And you are ALL warmly invited!

Auckland:

 

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Wellington:

 

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Puna Wai Kōrero: An Anthology of Māori Poetry in English — I flipped a question that I carried with me through my doctoral thesis

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Puna Wai Kōrero: An Anthology of Māori Poetry in English editors Robert Sullivan and Reina Whaitiri (Auckland University Press, 2014)

I am curious as to how many Māori poets we can name beyond a handful, beyond the much loved Hone Tuwhare. Open a New Zealand literary journal and do we still fall upon a Pākehā bias? The arrival of Puna Wai Kōrero: An Anthology of Māori Poetry in English (2014) presents us with a selection of writing that celebrates a wide and vibrant field. The editors, Robert Sullivan and Reina Whaitiri have brought a glorious range of voices into the spotlight.

Robert, of Ngāpuhi/Irish descent, is a poet and anthologist, and is currently Head of the Creative Writing Programme at Manukau Institute of Technology. Reina, of Māori/ Pākehā descent, is also a poet and an anthologist, and has taught English at the Universities of Auckland and Hawai’i. Along with Albert Wendt, Robert and Reina edited Whetu Moana (AUP, 2003) and Mauri Ola (AUP, 2010).

Puna Wai Korero is a moving feast. The poets selected come from a variety of locations, circumstances, backgrounds, writing preferences. The choices of style, tone, subject matter and poetic techniques are eclectic. There is humour, inward reflection, love and loss. There are poems of the marae and poems of elsewhere. There are mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. There is politics on the quiet and politics loud and clear. There is grief. There is home. There are familiar voices, there are those that are not. There are writers known for their fiction.

Through all this, I flipped a question that I carried with me through my doctoral thesis (does it make a difference if the pen is held by a woman?) to ask: Does it make a difference if the pen is held by a Māori. Do some writers deliberately and gloriously foster a Māori voice (perhaps, where the poet stands and writes from, how the poet stands and writes from, how the oratory traditions of the marae inflect the poetry, how genealogy inflects the poem and so on). I spent seven years hauling my question through politics, law, history, psychology, familial relations, art, literature, history, patriarchy within an Italian context and the Italian language. Over the past months, I have held a book that drew me in close to all of these things within the miniature frame of a poem and within the context of Aotearoa. You can view the poems within whatever cultural luggage you bring to them (a Western paradigm of how to write a poem and how to break a poem, both cemented by tradition and innovation). Or you can step out of that luggage and approach these poems afresh, and in doing so open out the ways in which we can make and read and hear poetry.

This was the first joy of reading this anthology — navigating the burgeoning questions for which I felt inept at answering.

The second joy, the equally sustaining joy, was the discovery of new writers along with a return to those well loved (whenever I visit secondary schools I share my James K Baxter/Hone Tuwhare anecdotes that kickstarted me on the path of poetry in 1972). A wee taste of what I have loved: a tingle in reading Hilary Baxter’s ‘Reminiscence,’ the heart and gap in all of Hinemoana Baker’s poems, the sharp kick of Arapera Hineira Blank’s ‘After watching father re-uniting with sons in prison,’ the utter joy of Bub Bridger’s ‘Wild daisies,’ the force of Ben Brown’s ‘I am the Māori Jesus,’ the insistent catch of Marewa Glover’s ‘Pounamu,’ the evocative laying of roots in Katerina Mataira’s ‘Restoring the ancestral home,’ the pocket narrative in Trixie Te Arama Menzies’s ‘Watercress,’ the piquant detail of Paula Morris’s ‘English grandmother,’ the subtle shifts in Kiri Piahana-Wng’s ‘Four paintings,’ the verve and aural steps of Vaughan Rapatahana’s ‘Aotearoa blues, baby’ (I want to hear him read this!), the sumptuous detail in Reihana Robinson’s “God of ugly things,’ the poetic and political and personal stretch of Alice Te Punga Somerville’s ‘mad ave,’ all of JC Sturm (especially ‘At times I grieve for you’), Robert Sullivan (especially ‘Voice carried my family, their names and stories’), Apirana Taylor (especially ‘Te ihi’ and ‘Haka’) and Hone Tuwhare (especially, most utterly especially ‘Rain’).

This is a book of returns, to be kept on every shelf. Bravissimo!