Tag Archives: Sarah Laing

Going West was a hit with me

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Three NZ writers to appear at prestigious Edinburgh literary festival – including two poets

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New Zealand writers making waves at home and abroad will present their work and participate in the prestigious Edinburgh International Book Festival in August.

A new partnership between the festival, WORD Christchurch and Creative New Zealand has resulted in the talented line-up of New Zealand writers, all with acclaimed books, set to make an impression at the renowned literary event.

The writers are award-winning and wildly popular Wellington poet Hera Lindsay Bird, critically acclaimed Auckland poet, playwright and fiction writer Courtenay Sina Meredith, and best-selling Wellington novelist, comic artist and blogger Sarah Laing. They will be accompanied by Rachael King, author and programme director of WORD Christchurch, who has worked with the festival to select the writers and curate their events.

Participation in the festival is part of the New Zealand at Edinburgh 2017 season which sees the return of a New Zealand season across the various Edinburgh festivals taking place in August. This follows an ambitious and successful presentation in 2014.

With the theme of Brave New Words, this year’s book festival programme features more than 1000 authors from 45 countries.

Hera Lindsay Bird will appear with recent Ted Hughes prize-winner Hollie McNish in Poetry Superstars, and perform in a late night spoken word showcase. Courtney Sina Meredith will join a 21st Century Women panel, curated by guest selectors Roxane Gay and Jackie Kay. Meredith will also appear alongside Scottish poet and musician MacGillivray in Reshuffling the Pack.  Sarah Laing will host a reading workshop of Katherine Mansfield stories, as well as talk about her book Mansfield & Me alongside English comic creator Hannah Berry in Graphic Novels of Influential Women.  Rachael King will also appear in the children’s programme.

“We are thrilled that the relationships developed during previous seasons have resulted in this new partnership. It will expose the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s audiences to new and talented voices from Aotearoa and provide a dynamic international networking opportunity for the writers,” said Creative New Zealand senior manager for international, Cath Cardiff.

The festival expressed an interest in working with a local partner to bring New Zealand authors to its programme. This worked well with WORD Christchurch’s aspirations to engage more with international partners and to promote New Zealand literature overseas.

“We are delighted to be working with WORD Christchurch this year and we are very much looking forward to welcoming some of New Zealand’s wonderful writers to the book festival in August,” said Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Nicky Barley.

“It has been a pleasure to work with Edinburgh International Book Festival on programming New Zealand writers into some fantastic events that will showcase their talents and ensure maximum exposure for their work,” said Rachael King.

The Edinburgh International Book Festival began in 1983 and is now a key event in the August festival season. It has grown rapidly in size and scope to become the largest and most dynamic festival of its kind in the world. In its first year the book festival hosted 30 events, now it programmes more than 800 events attracting around 220,000 visitors.

To support the writers to attend the festival Creative New Zealand has provided $20,000 towards airfares, accommodation and administration costs.

Biographies:

Hera Lindsay Bird has an MA in poetry from the International Institute of Modern Letters in Wellington where she won the 2011 Adam Prize for best folio. Her debut, self-titled book of poetry HERA LINDSAY BIRD was published in July 2016 by Victoria University Press (VUP). It has become the fastest selling, most popular book of poetry the VUP has ever published, and won Best First Book of Poetry at the 2017 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

herabird.weebly.com

Courtney Sina Meredith is a poet, playwright, fiction writer and musician. Her play Rushing Dolls (2010) won a number of awards and was published by Playmarket in 2012. She launched her first published book of poetry, Brown Girls in Bright Red Lipstick (Beatnik), at the 2012 Frankfurt Book Fair, and has since published a short story collection, Tail of the Taniwha (2016) to critical acclaim. She has been selected for a number of international writers’ residencies. Meredith describes her writing as an “ongoing discussion of contemporary urban life with an underlying Pacific politique”. She is of Samoan, Mangaian and Irish descent.

courtneymeredith.com

Sarah Laing is the author of two novels, Dead People’s Music and Fall of Light, and a short story collection, Coming Up Roses. With a background in illustration and design, she runs the popular comic blog Let Me Be Frank, which she started when she held the Frank Sargeson Fellowship in 2008. She has contributed comics to magazines, illustrated children’s books, and co-edited Three Words: An Anthology of Aotearoa/NZ Women’s Comics. Her latest book, Mansfield & Me, is a graphic biography and memoir, which compares the life of New Zealand’s most famous writer Katherine Mansfield, to Sarah’s own life of creativity, insecurity and celebrity obsession.

sarahelaing.com

Rachael King has been the programme director of WORD Christchurch since 2013. She is the author of two books for adults, The Sound of Butterflies (winner of Best First Novel at the Montana New Zealand Book Awards) and Magpie Hall (long-listed for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award), and one for children, Red Rocks, which won New Zealand’s longest-running literary award, the Esther Glen Medal. Her work has been translated into eight languages and has garnered critical praise worldwide.

rachael-king.com

For more information contact:
Helen Isbister
Communications Manager
04 473 0187
helen.isbister@creativenz.govt

Sarah Laing, Adam Dudding, Anne Enright and Teju Cole #AWF17 ‘I am writing an account of what I love’ TC

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Going to the Auckland Writers’ Festival is a chance to reboot/reboost in the company of other readers and writers. This year’s programme is so very enticing, and if I had the stamina and time I would be there all day every day as is my usual habit.

This year I don’t have the stamina sadly and am in that selfish time-hungry state of writing a big book where trips into the city are both drains and topples.

 

 

However I caught up with a few sessions yesterday and I am glad I did. First up Geoff Walker steered a warm and lively conversation with the authors of two books I have recently adored: Sarah Laing (Mansfield and Me) and Adam Dudding (My Father’s Island). Perfect chair that drew a fabulous mix of confession and ideas on writing memoirs.

 

Secondly and most importantly I went to hear Anne Enright in conversation with Kate De Goldi. I have just been on a month-long road trip in Ireland where I read Irish fiction, poetry and history and came home with a rucksack of books to read.There was something rather extraordinary letting the writing overlap with the landscape, the weather, the people and vice versa. It was an extraordinary experience. I loved hearing Anne read, and I loved the excursions into the specifics of her books, but I hungered for a conversation that roved wider into life, writing, books, Ireland, Irish writers. I was going to ask a question at the end on what books of poetry or fiction she thought I should have had in the hire car. Luckily it came out of someone else’s question and was chuffed that I have her favourites ready and waiting, bar one or two. I have to say I went to the best bookshop in the world in Dublin! How does Ireland sustain so many fabulous bookshops?

 

Meanwhile I wavered between home/bed or Teju Cole and opted for the latter because I loved Open City and reviewed Know and Strange Things for SST last year. I loved it to the hilt! I came out of Teju’s session filled with the joy of writing, books and being alive. Some  writers you admire, some writers challenge you, some writers confound you. Some writers deliver awkward and unsettling disconnections, others a suite of nourishing connections. With Teju it was the latter. Uplifting. Utterly uplifting. Teju makes it very clear, with such honeyed fluency, why books matter in this endangered world.

 

Here are some of the gold nuggets I gleaned – I won’t put quotes as may not be exact:

 

Description shifts something that is in the world. Description shifts us as no longer simply passive recipients of the text but as active participants.

Writing Open City, I could not tailor it for a market as I could not imagine that market. It gave me utter freedom.   (I adore this sense of freedom to write what one wants, craves)

I write every book as though it is going to be my last.

How do you become ‘you’ inside your work? That’s my voice – that’s interesting. That’s who I turned out to be.

On reviewing (this is my raison d’etre on this blog!!!!): I am  writing an account of what I love. I’m an enthusiast. I give an account, so that if you don’t already love it, you might have a chance to. (he is not drawn to negative criticism)

All terrain retains some ghostly memory of the things they have endured.

Any great city is a burial ground for people who have largely been forgotten. (the dispossessed)

( I loved hearing the drone tweets written Post 9/11 where he took the first line of a classic book and then introduced bombs and devastation. Like Teju said, both funny and cripplingly serious.)

(He talked about the pleasure of writing / reading work that ultimately consoles as well as unsettles.)

Theory is like haute couture  – you laugh at it now and five years later it hits the streets.

I am fond of Iceland, Switzerland and new Zealand as they are diametrically opposed to what I know.

 

This sequence of severed quotes barely touch upon the joy of being there. It was over in a flash.