Read it here at Communion Arts Journal
Read it here at Communion Arts Journal
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
After my best friend disappeared, my counselor asked me to describe her.
In the early afternoon heat, the glass window in front of me was faintly stained with my reflection. Set against my ghosted image, the window revealed to me the world outside: old, red London buses crammed with strangers who idled away their journeys staring out of foggy glass; still more strangers on foot who bustled their way around the city, their images, moving shadows in department store windows; a lone dove perched on high observing all.
Please join us for a multilingual poetry reading to celebrate the launch of the first the first two chapbooks in the Seraph Press Translation Series:
Shipwrecks/Shelters: Six Contemporary Greek Poets, edited and translated by Vana Manasiadis
Observations: Poems by Claudio Pasi, translated by Tim Smith with Marco Sonzogni
6.00pm Wednesday 14 December
ST PAUL St Gallery
40 St Paul Street, Auckland
and for more about the Seraph Press Translation Series, visit.
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.
Michelle and Iva, winning emerging poets
This event, steered by Siobhan Harvey, has become an annual event in Auckland on National Poetry Day. Check out the winning poems by following the link. Both terrific!
The 2016 Divine Muses XIII : evening of poetry was this year MC’d by Linda Tyler, Director of the Centre for Art Studies at The University of Auckland. The University’s Gus Fisher Gallery with its beautiful stainglass dome provided the wonderful venue for the readings.
Linda Tyler welcomed and invited this year’s stellar line up of poets to read from a selection of their own poems. Vivienne Plumb, current writer in residence at the Michael King centre in Devonport, read first; followed by Riemke Ensing, Maris O’Rourke, Siobhan Harvey, Jenny Bornholdt, and Gregory O’Brien.
At the close of readings the winners of the 2016 NEW VOICES – Emerging Poets Competition were announced by judge Vana Manasiadi. Michelle Chote and Iva Vemic then read their winning poems. Unity Books of High Street kindly donated the book prizes for this year’s winners.
The last event of the evening was the launch of two new letterpress broadsheets. Limited Poetry Broadsheets were introduced last year by the organisers to help raise funds to support New Voices. The two new broadsheets were printed by Wellington letterpress printer Brendan O’Brien of Fernbank Studio. They featured poems by Gregory O’Brien and Jenny Bornholdt. Click here for further details
The winner is Michelle Chote and runner up is Iva Vemic.
New Voices, Emerging Poets Judge’s Report, 2016 (Vana Manasiadis)
I loved reading the entries for this year’s competition; it was an honour and a privilege to be entrusted with voices that took me to places as diverse as K road, Jerusalem, Santiago, Pike river, Prague and Kakamatua; and allow me presence during conversations with New Zealand poet elders, Denis Glover, Lauris Edmond; and American, Marge Piercy, Susan Howe. In all the poems I read, there was a magic and transport, and for me that is always the most important thing. I looked forward to reading the entries while I was still in Crete trying to find the threads myself, the connections in my case between words in different languages. And I thought about the words ‘language’ and ‘translation’ a lot – and certainly poetry contains a multiplicity of languages: of image, of sound, of turn, of contact. So when I finally got my hands on the entries, I looked for these different languages and their relationships to each other; and ultimately, to the translations. How was lonliness, love, loss being translated, sculpted and crafted and being offered to me, the reader, as something transformed? Water was a recurrring theme in this year’s entries, as was journey, and moving relationships with the dead and the living. So, fluidity, and arrival. I read the entries many times until I arrived myself at the shortlisted ten which succeeded particularly well in translating ideas of arrival, journey, surprise; and which showed deft use of the many languages of poetry. And I especially congratulate these poets tonight.
Highly Commended: I chose three highly commended poems this year, and the first of these is ‘Poppa’s Boat’, by Christel Jeffs, for the moving way themes of loss (of a beloved person, of childhood) and love, are evoked via turn and meticulous crafting. All five senses are alerted in this poem to memorable effect, the voice is authentic and assured, and it tells a story of presence, absence, presence in absence that is relateable, and felt true.
The second highly commended is ‘Home Thoughts, after Denis Glover’s poem’, by Annabel Wilson, a poem that insisted itself upon me. There’s a quiet confidence in the poem, a humility and ability to step back and let the images do the talking, that impressed me. The sustained image of the line drew me in and kept replenishing itself, and the implied dialogue with the poem’s inspiration, Glover’s ‘Home Thoughts’ pointed to the something bigger in poetry, to the community of voices.
The third highly commended is ‘Shoe Pads’, by Linda Lew, which was both delicate and dynamic in its treatment of the grandmother protagonist. The camera here pans wide and close in turns, as enormous historic events are checked by the grandmother’s quiet acts of love and shielding. I walked alongside her as she walked through decades of change, from Beijing to New Zealand. Always direct, never sentimental, she was kind and sturdy company.
Finalist: The second place goes to ‘A poem a day’, by Iva Vemich which, with its pace, choric repetitions, and surprising leaps of imagination made for memorable reading. I read this poem as a poem-essay, a poem that asks a question and shows its workings – in this case, ‘will poetry rescue’ (the poet, the community going about its daily business)? The responses – wry and perhaps a little ironic, but in a good way – were unexpected and evocative, and I was thrilled by many of the line breaks, and stream of consciousness connections.
Winner of the 2016 New Voices Competition: The winning entry tonight is ‘A colonised woman speaks’ by Michelle Chote. This was one of the first poems I read, and it absolutely refused to slip away quietly. It kept calling with its layers of polemicism and consonant crash. In this poem, expression is not the means to an ends, but the thing itself – the syllables and the hollows a body allows us. So tongue, air, taste and belly establish the organic imagery, embody fury and revolt in lines like ‘dash dipthongs at the drop of a beret’. Listen for the ending which is a perfect coming together of sense and sound. Having read the poem aloud several times in an effort to absorb the sound effects, I’m particularly excited to hear this powerful poem read tonight in this beautiful space, as the winner of this year’s competition.
This is the first festival with new programme directors. The programme offers the usual eclectic mix of conversations in a great setting with good food. A family festival, in a way.
There are a few poetry highlights but gone are the little poetry interludes breaking up the sessions. I miss that.
Emma Neale is the Curnow Reader.
Albert Wendt is giving the keynote address.
Serie Barford and Gregory Kan are in a session with Robert Sullivan.
On Saturday night there is the poetry slam with judges yet to be announced.
I am chairing a session with Sue Orr and Helen Margaret Waaka: ‘In Small Places …’
A few things I don’t want to miss:
Emma Neale: What happens when trauma transforms our children? Emma Neale offers up a lyrical exploration of parenthood that is both funny and disarmingly frank. She’ll discuss her new novel with writer Siobhan Harvey.
Damien Wilkins and Sue Orr in conversation on writing, teaching and Damien’s Dad Art, a vibrant novel about the capacity for surprise and renewal.
Barbara Brookes shares the story behind her ground-breaking A History of New Zealand Women with Judith Pringle, looking at the shaping of New Zealand through a female lens.
Flying Nun founder Roger Shepherd joins lifelong music fan John Campbell to share his memories of the label’s early days and the spirit of adventure and independence that took its sound to the world.
Full programme here.