Tag Archives: Sue Wootton

Dunedin writer Sue Wootton is the recipient of the NZSA Peter & Dianne Beatson Fellowship 2018

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Sue Wootton will use the fellowship to work on an historical novel. She says: ‘I’m proud and delighted to be the recipient of the 2018 Peter and Dianne Beatson Fellowship. It’s really invigorating to receive this vote of confidence in my project, and wonderful to know that I can now dedicate a sustained stretch of time to work on my second novel, which begins during the 1948 polio epidemic and explores the effects of this on one NZ family’.

Sue Wootton’s poetry, fiction and essays are widely published in New Zealand and internationally, and her work has been recognised in a number of awards and competitions, including the International Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine, the Caselberg Poetry Prize, the Gwen Harwood Poetry Prize, the University of Canberra Vice Chancellor’s Prize, the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Short Story Competition and the NZ Poetry Society International Competition. Her debut novel, Strip (Mākaro Press), was longlisted for the fiction prize in the 2017 Ockham NZ Book Awards, and her fifth poetry collection, The Yield (Otago University Press) was a finalist in the 2018 poetry category of these prestigious national awards.

Selection panel convener David Hill commented: ‘Sue Wootton is a versatile and much-admired writer, with a growing track record in both poetry and prose. Her sample of work is distinguished by writing that is both adventurous and accessible.’

 

Full details here

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Sue Wootton’s ‘Rx’

 

Rx  

I am ill because of wounds to the soul. D. H. Lawrence

 

Iceberg, Peace, American Beauty: the blooms

smack the window in the summer storm, hammered,

blotted, falling early in this discontent. Now

 

is become the only season. Patients all, we ail.

Our wounds are deep, our fractures dirty, complex,

irreducible. Compound upon compound. O rose,

 

we are sick! Thinner and thinner our skins

in these plague years. The lesions fester and we scratch.

Small words buzz and swarm, stripping the tongue

 

of buds. Our mouths are full of boils. An excess of bile

mocks the liver. This contagion of crimson rage,

these wails building. Eros, thou art sore.

 

Our memories fail, fatally. Too much for

get. Thus, prescribe ourselves a salve

for give. Mix in the blue bowl all our howls

 

and mutters. Add the lullabies, waiata, sagas,

ballads, odes. Copy and collate

the scrolls; trace the stories written slow

 

by candlelight and goose quill on illuminated manuscripts.

Resurrect the many, many ways

of saying sister, brother. Compose

 

our selves. Patience, all. Make open refuge

for the human heart and place the books within.

Read, and repeat. Read, and repeat. Let settle.

 

©Sue Wootton

 

Note: The medical shorthand for ‘treatment’ is Rx, which derives from the Latin imperative recipe (‘take’). ‘Rx’ was commended in the 2018 Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine (judged by Mark Doty).

Sue is a a PhD candidate in creative practice at the University of Otago, researching how literature articulates what it means to be able or disabled, ill or well. Her most recent publications are her debut novel, Strip (Mākaro Press), longlisted in the 2017 Ockham NZ Book Awards, and the poetry collection, The Yield (Otago University Press), a finalist in the 2018 Ockham NZ Book Awards. Her poem ‘The Swim’ has recently been longlisted in the 2018 University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s Poetry Prize.

 

 

Poetry Shelf video spot: Sue Wootton’s ‘Sea foam at Gemstone Beach’

 

 

 

‘Sea foam at Gemstone Beach’ from The Yield, Otago University Press, 2017

This book was one of my favourite reads of 2017 – I was utterly delighted to see it shortlisted in the book awards. If you ever get a chance – go hear Sue read! Otherwise tuck up in some cosy warmth, when it is icy outside, and read this prismatic book.

 

Sue Wootton’s latest collection, The Yield, was shortlisted for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards 2018. She has published five volumes of poetry, and has won several awards including the 2015 Caselberg Trust International PoetryPrize. Mākaro Press published Strip, her first novel, in 2015.  She co-edits the Health Humanities blog – Corpus: Conversations about Medicine and Life. She lives in Dunedin.

Sue Wootton’s website

Otago University Press page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some poems from the Ockham NZ poetry finalists: Sue Wootton’s ‘Wild’

 

Wild

 

Measure my wild. Down to my last leaf,

my furled, my desiccated. This deciduousness,

this bloom. Calculate my xylem levels.

My spore count, fungal, scarlet

in a bluebell glade. Whoosh,

where the foliage closes on a great cat.

Test me: how many tigers in my jungle,

how many lions at roam? Map my rivers,

deltas, estuaries. Mollusc, whelk, worm.

Monitor my silt. Do I have spoonbills, 

high-stepping and watchful over the darting fish?

Rainfall on pines. Dappled sunlight

in my dells. Under moss, the fallen log, under

the log the hibernating hedgehog. Late my dates,

or soon? Return of the albatross, godwits

gathering. What clouds me, shifts,

but: indigo thunder-stack, pink wisp. Count the mice.

What will survive me, O my cockroaches, O my lice?

Scaffold me with metal, cage me in glass, tube me,

needle me, fill me, flush me. Saline solution:

the ocean. Oxygen therapy: the sky.

Mineral deficiency: socks off. Soil. Dark

rot, eye-less wriggle, while the roots seek, seek.

Un-diagnosable, that ticklish insect.

Mountain peak speak only snow, and thus

I am diminished; thus I rest in my pulse. Sweet

heart. Monitor my yearn, and treat it with trees.

Un-pane me. Wilden my outlook.

Membrane animal, skin mammal under the osmosis moon.

Allow my tides. All this to say, in love we nest, and on Earth.

 

©Sue Wootton from The Yield

 

Sue Wootton lives in Dunedin where she writes fiction and poetry and, as a PhD candidate at the University of Otago, is researching the importance of literature to health and wellbeing. Her debut novel, Strip (Mākaro Press), was longlisted for the fiction prize in the 2017 Ockham NZ Book Awards, and her most recent publication, The Yield (Otago University Press) is shortlisted in the 2018 poetry category of the awards. She is the selecting editor for the Otago Daily Times Weekend Poem column and edits the weekly Health Humanities blog Corpus: Conversations about Medicine and Life, found at corpus.nz

The poem “Wild” was awarded 2nd place in the International Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine in 2013. Sue’s website is suewootton.com

12 questions for Ockham NZ Book Award poetry finalists: Sue Wootton

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Congratulations on your short-list placing!

Thank you Paula!

 

What poetry books have you read in the past year?

And this is why you should always keep a reading diary … I’ll have to cobble this together from flawed memory and my messy bookcase. Here goes: most recently, a ‘slim volume’ in the Penguin Modern Poets Three series with work by Malika Booker, Sharon Olds and Warsan Shire. In contrast, also Sentenced to Life and Injury Time by Clive James. Before these: Undying by Michel Faber, the poetry collections on the Ockham longlist, Bill Manhire’s Some Things to Place in a Coffin and Tell Me My Name, Walking by a River of Light by John Gibb, South D Poet Lorikeet by Jenny Powell, Getting it Right by Alan Roddick, Alzheimer’s and a Spoon by Liz Breslin, Taking my Mother to the Opera by Diane Brown, Fracking & Hawk by Pat White, The Trials of Minnie Dean by Karen Zelas, Taking My Jacket for a Walk by Peter Olds, Wolf by Elizabeth Morton, Where the Fish Grow by Ish Doney, Family History by Johanna Emeney, Possibility of Flight by Heidi North-Bailey, Withstanding by Helen Jacobs, Conscious and Verbal and Learning Human by Les Murray, Poems New and Collected by Wistawa Szymborska, Poems 1962-2012 by Louise Glűck, and X  by Vona Groarke.  

I like keeping an anthology handy too, and in the past year have been dipping in and out of two: Andrew Motion’s Poetry by Heart (on the bedside table) and Carol Ann Duffy and Gillian Clarke’s The Map and the Clock (next to the sofa).  

 

What other reading attracts you? 

Oh boy, you should see the pile of books by my bed – too many to list here. I enjoy both fiction and non-fiction (especially essays, biographies or memoir). Fiction-wise, I’ve recently finished Fiona Farrell’s wonderful Decline and Fall on Savage Street and am now reading Where My Heart Used to Beat by Sebastian Faulks, and some short stories by William Trevor. I’ve recently reread Olive Kitteridge and My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout (I love all of  Strout’s work!). Vincent O’Sullivan’s All This By Chance is standing by for Easter.

Nonfiction-wise, I’m itching to start neuroscientist Antonio Damasio’s The Strange Order of Things and Marilynne Robinson’s new essay collection What Are We Doing Here? (I love all of Robinson’s work!).

 

Name some key starting points (or themes) for your collection. 

This is quite a hard question for me to answer because The Yield wasn’t pre-planned as The Yield – it grew very slowly into The Yield, and I only recognised that I had a coherent  collection very late in the process. In hindsight I can see quite clearly that the poems are bound together by themes of give and take, love and loss, flexibility and rigidity, toil and harvest. This finally clicked into place for me after I wrote the poem called ‘The Yield’. It was only after that that I felt I had a potential collection in my hands. But most of the poems in the collection were written in the couple of years preceding that moment, and during those years I had no idea whether a book would eventuate. I had hope, but not much evidence!

 

Did anything surprise you as the poems come into being? 

Every poem I write is a surprise to me. I can never get over that fact – it amazes me, always.

 

Find up to 5 individual words that pitch your book to a reader.

These words are from The Yield: haul, reach, lift, roam, home.

 

Which poem particularly falls into place for you?

Not sure if I can select one – they all have their place.

 

What matters most when you write a poem?

I like a tight synthesis of sound and sense.

 

What do you loathe in poetry?

 Sometimes in an art gallery I stand in front of a painting I find ugly or too obvious or (conversely) too obscure – challenging, anyway, a canvas that maybe bores me or offends my personal sense of aesthetics, perhaps even my values. But still, alongside my ‘this is not one for my living room wall’ reaction, I can still respect the graft and the craft that went into making it – so long as it’s well made. Ditto, poetry. What I appreciate, above all else in poetry, is knowing that the poet has really leaned in. That’s a fundamentally appealing quality for me, even if I can’t adore the finished product. But if a poem is attentively made, and it somehow moves me – then I’m all in.

 

Where do you like to write poems?

 In my study or on the kitchen table (though I scribble scraps in my notebook anywhere, any time).

 

What are strengths and lacks in our poetry scenes?

We seem to have a lively open mic scene all over the country, with a new fizz of high energy youthful involvement alongside the different – no less intense – energy of more experienced voices. I love the diversity of this, the way it opens our ears and hearts and minds to each other. It’s good, too, to see extroverted poets out there connecting with audiences, attracting media comment and generally flying the flag for poetry. But don’t forget the page! I’m a big believer that poetry is a craft learned by practice. Getting better at it is done through serving a kind of apprenticeship, learning the tools of your trade, and being supported, mentored and informed by more experienced practitioners, so for me it’s really great to see newer literary journals like Mimicry and Starling rising up (though I’m sad to see the end of  JAAM).

Nothing matches the developmental push that comes from submitting work to a well-read editor to be scrutinised word by word. It’s healthy, too, to have enough possible publication places to be able to avoid only submitting work to your friends or classmates. So, I think we can do with still more editor-curated poetry publications to nourish the development of poetry in Aotearoa-New Zealand. Another lack: we need more platforms for the kind of stimulating and informative longform poetry review that critics like Lynley Edmeades, for example (in a recent Landfall Review Online), are so good at writing. But also, no one should be expected to write a seriously-considered review for nothing. Work is work, even if at the end of the day it’s not mud, but ink, on your hands. Funding, funding, funding: there’s a permanent problematic lack!

  

Have you seen a festival poetry session (anywhere) that has blown you off your seat (or had some other significant impact)?

I was at the 2010 Granada Poetry Festival in Nicaragua – truly a festival, a celebration of la poesia. The readings were held in parks and plazas. The Nicaraguan people have a passionate regard for poets and poetry – they turned out in their thousands to hear readings from their own and international poets. One particular event stands out for me. It was an evening reading, outside, warm and dark in the main town plaza, with about 2000 people in the audience – all ages, children, teenagers, parents, grandparents. Their listening was so attentive (most poems were voiced twice, once in the poet’s language and again in Spanish translation) – I watched face after face absolutely blossom in response to some lines. There was a feeling of us all being tapped into a high-voltage current – such power. Sheer zappery! And all from words.

 

If you could curate a dream poetry session at The Auckland Writers Festival which poets would be there and who would mc or chair it?

Sharon Olds, Louise Glück and Rita Dove in conversation with Carol Ann Duffy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flash in Aotearoa: NFFD judges in conversation

 

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Still time to enter!

 

The 2018 National Flash Fiction Day competition runs through April 30.

Send your best 300-word story * Cash prizes

Three categories: Adult, Youth and a Te reo Māori Prize

 

‘Compressed forms tend to make poets of us all, because the fewer words you have to work with the more work you want each of those words to do. So yes, perhaps poets start with a bit of an advantage since they are already familiar with using distilled language and constrained form. But the ‘fiction’ aspect of flash demands a commitment to the idea of story: the passage of time, development of character, something that happens, a transformative moment. And whereas the basic building block of poetry is the line, in flash fiction it is usually the sentence. Which is a good place to suggest that Jac Jenkin’s ‘Settlement’ (2016) is a terrific example of the overlap between prose poetry and flash fiction. It’s carefully crafted with the line and the sentence in mind. It pops with concrete imagery (“one femur has a spiral crack; its neck has been gnawed by rodent teeth”), has rhythm, uses alliteration (“am I fleshed or flayed?”), and speaks as much from the white space between the words as from the words themselves.’ Sue Wootton

 

We are pleased to share insights from this year’s judges.

Sue Wootton and Tracey Slaughter (Adult judges)

Tim Jones and Patrick Pink (Youth judges)

Vaughan Rapatahana (Te reo Māori Prize judge)


 

NFFD 2018 in Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Northland, Wellington

Meet the judges * share stories * celebrate the shortest form

Competition entry details here.

nationalflash.org