Two posts today, because I wanted to take part in Sunday Scribblings, but I also wanted to write more about the Writers' Festival. This is a bit long, but for those who like pretty pictures, you will find some at the end.
Firstly, from the comments on my Saturday post, it seems I didn't make one point quite clear. It wasn't the audience who were whining about how hard it was for women to find time to write, but the panel of writers, one in particular. I should probably forgive her,because after all she has found the time to write around half a dozen books - several novels, and two commissioned non-fiction works.
I missed one of the sessions I planned to attend yesterday, because there was a printing glitch on the ticket. The correct time was shown on the butt, but an incorrect time was shown on the main part of the ticket. If I'd stuck to the printed programme I would have been OK. Still, it was a bit disappointing. The session was called "The Wide White Page" and it was a panel of writers who had been to, and written about Antarctica.
Today I was up bright and early so I could attend a session entitled "Are Angels OK?" This was a session about the interaction between poetry and physics. Bill Manhire talked to Iggy McGovern, who is both a professor of physics and an acclaimed poet. I found it very interesting. Bill Manhire is the public face of poetry in New Zealand. He has writtten a number of award winning collections and been New Zealand's first Poet Laureate. He also runs the creative writing course at the Victoria University in Wellington, and has established the International Institute of Modern Letters, with links to the Iowa writing course. There is a large writing prize awarded annually by the IIML - he has been very successful in seeking funding. Of course with such a profile he has his detractors. Some critics think all the graduates of his writing course sound the same. It's probably just jealousy since they have such a wide range of ages and backgrounds that such a claim seems unlikely. I must say that I din't much like his poetry up until now. However he was one of the "Poetry for Lunch" poets today and read from his latest collection - I was impressed. Perhaps hearing the poetry out loud makes a difference, but it seemed much more accessible than his earlier work.
We also heard poetry from Cecilia Guridi, a Chilean poet reading in Spanish with a translation given; Ishle Yi Park, a Korean-American, formerly Poet Laureate of Queens, New York; Paul Tan from Singapore; Andrew Fagan, solo yachtsman, lead singer in a band, and poet; and Jess Feibig, a local high school student and talented poet. A very eclectic collection of readers.
I had been impressed with the international line-up and assumed that large sums of money were expended bringing them all here. In fact as it turned out, both Cecilia Guridi and Ishle Yi Park are currently living in New Zealand, while Iggy McGovern though Irish is spending six months at La Trobe University in Melbourne. The three Singaporean poets had their expenses paid by the Singapore Arts Council. I think that some of the other international writers were obtained by piggy-backing on the Melbourne festival. Fair enough. As Bill Manhire pointed out, New Zealand is a long skinny village. (He's a New Zealander, so he's allowed to say things like that).
Someone asked if anyone could attend, or only published writers. Well, basically it is a big book promotion. So yes, anyone can attend. The speakers of course are published writers, but the audience is anyone willing to pay for tickets. For about double what I spent in tickets I could have had a festival pass which would have got me into all the sessions - around four or five a day. Or rather, not quite all, since first there were double-ups - two sessions at the same time - and secondly, a number of events were excluded from the festival pass. Events like the gala opening, a theatre production based on the works of Lauris Edmond, another New Zealand poet who died a few years ago, and of course the workshops the previous weekend.
Next time I will just pick out the "in conversation with" sessions, which seem to be by far the most interesting. I filled out a survey form on the first day - I don't know if my opinions are worth much since I had only been to one session at the time, but it involved a draw for $250 worth of book tokens - I'm not very hopeful, but you never know.
Between my two sessions today I intended to stroll down to the Arts Centre craft market. I was halfway there when I came across a performance by a group of dancers from Kalimantan (part of Borneo) in front of the Art Gallery. Here are a few photos.