Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Christchurch Writers Festival

It's nearly a year since our big trip to the UK, and I haven't really had a holiday since. One of my two jobs closed down for a couple of weeks over Christmas, but I worked right through at the other job.

I think that's why I was looking forward eagerly to the release of the programme for the Christchurch Writers Festival. I want some time off work, but I don't want to waste it at home the way I seem to waste my weekends these days. Supposedly, it was launched last night, with details in this morning's paper. The "details" turned out to be a decent sized article, with a listing of "highlights". We were directed to the website for the full programme. But the website said "coming soon".

I am such a patient person. I phoned the festival office, and established that programmes were in fact available at the libraries. So I collected one on the way home. (The website is now up and running. Apparently they had a few problems).

I'm about to peruse the programme more thoroughly. A couple of immediate observations:

1) The ticket prices. Way way up on what they were two years ago. Sigh. Isn't everything?

2) Poetry is definitely the poor relation. Two years ago, we had poets from several different countries - Ishle Yi Park (I'm not sure if I have the spelling correct) from New York, a poet from Chile, several from Singapore, Iggy McGovern from Ireland. Actually, it turned out it was done on the cheap. The Korean-American and the Chilean were living in New Zealand, the Irish physicist-poet was on sabbatical in Melbourne, Australia, and the four Singaporeans were sponsored by the Singapore Arts Council. Still, there was a good sprinkling of poetry from poets I hadn't heard before.

This time, most of the poets seem to be local, with a few from a little further away, but still New Zealanders. Now it's true that we tend to fall into the trap here of thinking overseas is necessarily better. The local poets are in fact very fine poets. Bernadette Hall, for instance, is a former winner of the Commonwealth Poetry Prize. However, most of them are poets I have heard before. Novelists and non-fiction writers may be brought in from around the world especially for the festival, but poets are not. I think it's because they are just not supported by their publishers (not commercial enough?)

The upside to this is that the poetry sessions for the most part have much lower admission prices. Does this mean poets will take any opportunity to perform their work for very little reward?

No comments: