Tag Archives: Sarah Broom Poetry Award

#awf16 Going to the Sarah Broom Award

 

(excuse my photos but I have managed an eerie poetry light on everyone!)

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Going to the Sarah Broom Award is always a sad-glad occasion for me as I get to remember a wonderful poet and to celebrate the vitality of New Zealand poetry.

This year was no exception. The award is a gift from Sarah’s husband, Michael Gleissner. His dedicated drive to support NZ poetry offers an award for a poet at any stage of their career. For the past two occasions, an overseas judge has selected the shortlist and winner. This year, acclaimed Irish poet, Paul Muldoon, was judge. He had no idea who wrote the poems and insisted on reading all the entries (over 250) because he wanted to find the entries that ‘judge you, that read you and impress themselves upon you.’

 

Paul’s short list: Airini Beautrais, Elizabeth Smither and Amanda Hunt

Paul began with a moving tribute to Sarah, Sarah’s family and her poetry. He read her poem (among others) ‘Holding the Line’ and said: ‘We’re all trying to hold the line of poetry which seems a little perilous, but that’s what we’re all trying to do.’

Each poet read a handful of poems.

 

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The winner, Elizabeth Smither read the poem about her mother that she read at the Laureate Circle event in Wellington. Kate Camp and I were in a frenzy to read it again. Elizabeth so kindly gave Kate her copy and signed it and emailed me one. It is the kind of a poem that has built a room of its own in my head. The sort of poem that rises and pierces your heart with the acute depiction of a moment. Elizabeth is outside in her car in the street seeing her mother move through her house without realising her daughter is watching. Elizabeth followed it with a poem, ‘The name in the fridge’ that made me laugh out loud. She and friend had put the name of someone they wished ill of in the freezer but nothing bad happened (see poem below). As Paul said, Elizabeth has the skill to blend humour with seriousness. Yes, her poems can handle that and so much more. The stillness, insight and deep connection to humanity makes Elizabeth a poet writing at her very best.

Elizabeth is a former NZ Poet Laureate, has published numerous poetry collections that have garnered awards and high praise, along with short stories and novels. She lives in New Plymouth.

 

The name in the fridge

Someone we both disliked: you wrote

his name on a slip of paper

folded it, and inserted it in the freezer

 

under a tray of ice cubes, next to

a frozen chicken, frozen vegetables

a casserole sectioned into cartons.

 

You’d read about it. Nothing too serious

would happen. Perhaps he’d lose his job

or his dog would need taking to the vet.

 

The dog would recover, the bill be huge.

His wife might flirt with someone at a party

and be noticed: notice was a big part of it.

 

When nothing happened after six months:

his dog had puppies, he got promoted

we took out the paper, ice-encrusted

 

and brushed it against our jerseys. Soft

powder fell into the sink. You said

you’d take it with you when you went to England

 

as if it would be more potent there.

A huge fridge near an Aga

stuffed with grouse and pheasants and wild boar.

 

©Elizabeth Smither

 

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Airini Beautrais read from a sequence of poems that forge links with the Whanganui River. As a poet she bends the line and then makes it glow with luminous detail so that as you listen to the contours of voice you are both skimming the slopes of  every day living and doing little side jumps to out-of-the-everyday. It all comes down to voice. To human beings finding their way in different circumstances. As I listened I felt like I want to read the river, to read the whole sequence, and follow people as much as river currents.

Airini has published three collections of poetry and is a graduate of IIML. Her most recent collection, Dear Neil Roberts, was longlisted for the Ockham NZ Book Awards in the Poetry Category. Like Amanda she studied ecological science at university. Her debut collection was named Best First Book of Poetry at the Montana NZ Book Awards 2007. She lives in Whanganui.

Airini acknowledged the significance of  Sarah’s poetry: ‘As a mother and writer I find Sarah’s poetry particularly moving, and also inspirational. I am inspired by her bravery and strength. She has left us an important legacy.’

 

Observatory

 

Kids, who wants to look up through the telescope?

This is the largest unmodified refractor telescope in use

in New Zealand. Birthday girl, you first. I hope

you’ll see a planet up there, with rings. That might come loose

if you fiddle with it, be careful. It looks like smoke?

That would be a cloud. Is that really a planet? Yes.

Nah, I stuck a picture up on the end. That was a joke.

Could an asteroid destroy humanity? Well, I guess

there’s a chance. No object we know of threatens us any time soon.

Is there life like ours, out there? Keep looking up, wave a little.

Parents, bring your kids back one Friday night, maybe the moon

will be visible. Who hasn’t had a turn yet? Look there, and it’ll

be right in the middle. Ha, that’s what everyone says. You know how

they called this planet Saturn? They really should have named it Oh wow.

©Airini Beautrais

 

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Amanda Hunt read a bunch of native bird poems that were glorious renditions of birds but offered so much more in terms of life and living. Like Elizabeth she had the ability to make us laugh and pause. There was the joy of hearing a poet for the first time that you know absolutely nothing about and have no idea what effect her poems will have on you. I loved the static between visual detail and people doing things.

Amanda is a poet and ecologist based in Rotorua and, while she has been writing poems for awhile, is beginning to seek increased publishing opportunities. She studied medicine and environmental science at the University of Auckland. She has worked in environmental and resource management throughout New Zealand and Australia, but returned to her home town a few years ago.

Amanda said that she ‘felt the award helps to keep Sarah’s amazing work very much alive and it was a real honour to be reading at this event in her name.’

 

Overture

He says

the grey warbler sounds

like the beginning of a Bizet aria

 

a small pale bird

ruffling its feathers

inside a red dress

one wing outstretched

as its sings the same song

over and over

 

all our birds have

funny names and

our voices are strange so

he has to ask us to repeat

what we say

over and over

 

the cold is on the border

of being worth dressing for

he came without gloves

it’s still winter and the

wind blitzes us from the south

 

but in the morning he’s not sure

if it’s snow he sees on the hills or

the sun in his eyes

 

we drive on the wrong side of the road

there are no newspapers in his language

and he still wakes late with jet lag

 

and yet

every morning

in the kowhai tree behind his house

the first notes of a song

he already knows.

©Amanda Hunt

 

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(Elizabeth with her AUP editor, Anna Hodge)

When Elizabeth was announced as winner she was a little shocked (I do think the finalists could be told back stage so they don’t have to sit on stage for an hour, with the the sizable store of nerves that build when you are about to read in public). She searched in her bag for a piece of paper while Paul supplied her with another poem to read.

I thought her thank-you speech was very moving. She said, ‘It feels like having your first poem accepted again. The chase is always on the for the next poem that might be better though it is always moving out of reach.’

Elizabeth was reminded of her short story where a young girl, notebook in arm, struggled to be a writer in Paris. Elizabeth had included this quote from Mavis Gallant in her story: ‘She was sustained by the French refusal to accept poverty as a sign of failure in an artist.’

Elizabeth said that poets would be familiar with this and ‘That is why the Sarah Broom Award is so marvelous. Sarah and Michael have exactly understood the position, the amount is perfect, the conditions are wonderful.’

Like Airini and Amanda, she paid moving tribute to Sarah’s poems: ‘I heard that a whole new cluster of planets has just been discovered. That’s how I think of Sarah’s poems: flying through space, serene and beautiful, wrought from tragedy and beauty.’

Elizabeth also thanked the audience! She made us feel that as readers we matter: ‘And I want to thank the audience for being present. Poetry could not survive without you. The girl in the French cafe was counting on that: if she could write something, someone would read it and she then would be a writer.’

Thanks to AWF for hosting this event.

Thanks for a terrific occasion Michael. Three very special writers. One very special award.

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Sarah Broom Poetry Award now open for entries – and an announcement of exciting new judge!

 

This exciting news! Bravo for keeping this vital competition up and running. Let’s hope entries come from far and wide.

 

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Entries should be emailed to poetryprize@sarahbroom.co.nz
Any queries should be emailed to enquiries@sarahbroom.co.nz

 

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Winner announced at AWF- Sarah Broom Poetry Prize 2015

 

 Diana Bridge

Wellington poet Diana Bridge was announced as the winner of the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize at the Auckland Writers Festival on Sunday 17 May.

Bridge has published five collections of poems, the latest of which, Aloe & other poems, came out in 2009. She was awarded the Lauris Edmond Memorial Award in 2010, for her distinguished contribution to New Zealand poetry, and her essay, “An attachment to China” won the 2014 Landfall essay competition.

 

The award-winning Irish poet Vona Groarke was guest judge for the prize in 2015. She describes Bridge’s poems as “colourful and playful, but also careful, thoughtful and wise.”  “There is a kind of fierce beauty to this work, alongside its rigorous intellect and formal grace.” Bridge accepted the $12,000 award at the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize event.

 

“I am overwhelmed and proud to be the recipient of an award set up to honour the work of Sarah Broom”, she says.

“I like to think that a tiny particle of her courage served to stiffen my spine the day I chose the poems I sent off. For I picked poems not in the hope that they might just work in a New Zealand context, or in what I imagined might be the context of the competition. I chose the poems that mattered most to me.”

“So – in went the story of Arjuna, from the Hindu text, the Baghavad Gita; in went a poem that was a response to the whole – prolific – output of the formidable professor of poetry at Oxford, Geoffrey Hill; in went a poem called ‘The Henrys’ that tackles all those terrible medieval and Tudor executions we have been subjected to in print and on the screen in recent years.”

“I am excited that we are ready for poems that spring from anywhere on the globe.”

The prize, now in its second year, was established to celebrate the life and work of Sarah Broom (1972-2013), author of Tigers at Awhitu and Gleam.

 

Vienna-based Alice Miller and Wellington’s Ashleigh Young were also shortlisted.

 

 

Diana Bridge
Bridge, who has a Ph.D. in Chinese poetry, has worked on the China-based poems of Robin Hyde and published an essay, “O to be a dragon”, and a Translation Paper, “An Unexpected Legacy: Xie Tiao’s poems on things”.  She is at present working on the translation of a selection of classical Chinese poems.

Vona Groarke writes: “Whether it is the violence of medieval history, the engagement with nature, or a re-imagining of Ovid that is the subject, Diana Bridge’s poetry has authority and elegance. Technically sophisticated, this work is complex but never obscure; lyrically charged but never sentimental. It is unflinching in its observational commitment, but also enjoys its ability to fashion unusual and arresting imagery. There is a kind of fierce beauty to this work, alongside its rigorous intellect and formal grace. In a description that rings true of much of her work, her poem ‘Prospero’s Stones’ notes, ‘driven phrases that lap /around each other’: this is a poetry that is linguistically alert, but that also remembers to ply sound and meaning into the kind of poetic weave that is colourful and playful, but also careful, thoughtful and wise.”

 

Sue Wootton on Vona Groake at Dunedin Writers’ Festival (what a delicious breakfast!)

Vona Groake in conversation with Liam McIlvanney, Dunedin Writers’ and Readers’ Festival

10 May 2015

It was a dreadful slot on the schedule—nine o’clock on a Sunday morning, on Mothers’ Day, to boot—but an hour with Vona Groake? No contest. The conversation between her and Professor Liam McIlvanney (here wearing his academic-teacher-of-contemporary-Irish-poetry hat, not his crime writer’s hat) was an absolute delight. Liam’s well-informed but gentle and open-ended questions prompted a flowing conversation, further extended and deepened near the end of the session when Vona responded to questions from the floor. Liam’s approach allowed Vona to articulate—uninterrupted!—some ideas on the source and sustenance of her craft. Their erudite, thought-provoking (and often funny) discussion probed the way that poetry grows out of language itself, looked at the influence of tradition on contemporary poem-makers, and was interspersed with readings of some of her poems. Ah, nourishment. And what a delicious breakfast.

Sue Wootton

 

 

Where else to catch Vona:

Auckland: Vona is at the Auckland Writers Festival this weekend where she is announcing the winner of The Sarah Broom Poetry Award and reading a few of her poems.

Upper NZI Room, Aotea Centre, Sunday May 17th, 1.30 to 2.30 

 

Wellington: On Thursday May 21st (12.15 to 1.15) Vona is conversation at the City Gallery in Wellington.

Finalists for The Sarah Broom Poetry Prize 2015

 

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The judges are delighted to announce the three finalists for the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize 2015.

 

The prize attracted almost 200 entries from across the spectrum of New Zealand poets, from the new and emerging to the established and the iconic. The shortlist was chosen by the 2015 guest judge, Irish poet Vona Groarke.

 

The finalists are:

Diana Bridge: a Wellington-based poet, the author of five collections, including aloe & other poems (2009).

Alice Miller: a New Zealand poet based in Vienna, whose first book The Limits was published in 2012.

Ashleigh Young: a Wellington-based editor, essayist, and poet, whose first collection of poetry, Magnificent Moon, was published in 2012.

 

“The Sarah Broom Poetry Prize is about celebrating poetry,” says judging panel member Sarah Ross. “The diversity of the entries received, and the tonal and formal complexity of the best work, its deftness, its moments of insight, poignancy, and humour – all of this has made the judging process enormously rewarding. So too has working with the generous and perceptive Vona Groarke.”

 

The Sarah Broom Poetry Prize aims to make a substantial ongoing contribution to supporting poetry in New Zealand. The value of the prize is $12,000 in 2015.

 

The three finalists will read in a free session at the Auckland Writers Festival on Sunday 17 May from 1.30-2.30pm in the Upper NZI Room, Aotea Centre, Auckland. Vona Groarke will announce the winner at this event

Queries should be emailed to: enquiries@sarahbroom.co.nz

For photos or other details of finalists please email sarahceross@gmail.com

For more information about Sarah Broom or the Poetry Prize visit www.sarahbroom.co.nz

 

 

FINALIST DETAILS:

Diana Bridge

Photo credit: Simon Woolf

Diana Bridge has published five collections of poems, the latest of which, aloe & other poems, came out in 2009. She was awarded the Lauris Edmond Memorial Award in 2010, for her distinguished contribution to New Zealand poetry, and her essay, ‘An attachment to China’ won the 2014 Landfall essay competition. Diana is based in Wellington.

Vona Groarke writes: “Whether it is the violence of medieval history, the engagement with nature, or a re-imagining of Ovid that is the subject, Diana Bridge’s poetry has authority and elegance. Technically sophisticated, this work is complex but never obscure; lyrically charged but never sentimental. It is unflinching in its observational commitment, but also enjoys its ability to fashion unusual and arresting imagery. There is a kind of fierce beauty to this work, alongside its rigorous intellect and formal grace. In a description that rings true of much of her work, her poem ‘Prospero’s Stones’ notes, ‘driven phrases that lap /around each other’: this is a poetry that is linguistically alert, but that also remembers to ply sound and meaning into the kind of poetic weave that is colourful and playful, but also careful, thoughtful and wise.”

 

 

Alice Miller

Photo Credit: Dylan Whiting

Alice Miller’s first book The Limits was published by Auckland University Press and Shearsman in 2014. She is a graduate of the International Institute of Modern Letters and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Last year she was a Grimshaw Sargeson Fellow, a Visiting Writer at Massey University, and a resident at the Michael King Centre. She is based in Vienna.

Vona Groarke writes: “The ‘I’ and ‘We’ of Alice Miller’s poetry are rarely familiar and never predictable. The same is true of her poems, which are fully-charged and teem with surprises of imagery, narrative and language. Nothing moves in a straight line in this work: instead, the poems tend to turn on small pockets of beguiling mystery. Characters emerge out of an apparent nowhere and do the darndest things before they slip off again, as if in secret, out of the sightline of the poem. It all makes for an intense and intensely involving experience: the lines are so well managed and the narrative so deftly and subtly manoeuvred as to leave one ruffled, but pleasantly so. What might seem like aphorism turns out to be a strange and complicated proposition, as in ‘Saving’ where, ‘some of the moments we cling to most / are the futures we never let happen’. This is work that turns on a sixpence, and that manages each of its fascinating turns with assurance and aplomb.”

 

 

Ashleigh Young

Ashleigh Young is an editor, essayist, and poet. Her first collection of poetry, Magnificent Moon, was published by Victoria University Press in 2012, and recent work appears in Sport, The Griffith Review, Five Dials, and Tell You What. She co-teaches a workshop in science writing at Victoria University with science writer Rebecca Priestley, and she blogs, mostly about cycling, at eyelashroaming.com. Ashleigh is based in Wellington.

 

Vona Groarke writes: “Ashleigh Young’s poems defy their tight spaces to offer expansive and resonant narratives. Hers is a poetic world that derives great charge and vigour from proper nouns – named people and places -and specific, beautifully delineated detail that, as in flash fiction, sparks an entire world to life. People talk to each other in these poems, and whole lives get encapsulated in the kind of language that is as exact as it is vivid, as careful as it concise. Take for instance, ‘Electrolarynx’ with its arresting line: ‘Then our silence made a condemned building of us all’, or the opening of ‘Become road’: ‘When the car stops we are beginning already to become road’. These are poems that begin with the familiar, and then carefully walk it to the edges of perception, where it catches the light in arresting, singular and finely memorable ways.”

The judges for the 2015 Sarah Broom Poetry Prize

The judges for the 2015 Sarah Broom Poetry Prize are:

2015 GUEST JUDGE

2015 JUDGES

S HuntVona Groarke
Vona is an Irish poet. She has published six collections with Gallery Press, the latest being X, (2014), a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Others include Spindrift (2010), Flight (2002) – which won the Michael Hartnett Award, and her translation from Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill’s eighteenth-century Irish, Lament for Art O’Leary (2008), which is currently being adapted as an opera by Irish composer, Irene Buckley. In the U.S., she publishes with Wake Forest University Press. Her poems have recently appeared in Yale Review, The New Yorker, Kenyon Review, Boston Review, The Guardian, The Times and Poetry Review. She teaches poetry in the Centre for New Writing at the University of Manchester in the UK and is the editor of Poetry Ireland Review.
S RossSarah Ross, BA (Hons) Canterbury, MSt (Distinction) Oxford, DPhil Oxford
Sarah is a Senior Lecturer in English at Victoria University of Wellington. She specialises in early modern literature, poetry, and women’s writing, and she is the editor of Katherine Austen’s Book M (ACMRS, 2011) and the author of numerous articles on early modern women’s writing, poetry, and manuscript culture.

M GleissnerMichael Gleissner, LLB (Hons), MBA, CPA
Michael met Sarah in 1990 and they married in 1999 before moving to New Zealand. Michael is General Manager Corporate Strategy at the New Zealand Superannuation Fund. Previously he held Chief Financial Officer roles at Pacific Fibre and Sealord Group and various roles at Fonterra. Michael has also worked as a lawyer in London and Auckland. He is an avid supporter of the Arts, and shared a particular strong interest in poetry with Sarah. Michael lives in Auckland with his and Sarah’s three young children.