Is Auckland an octopus?

My instructions were clear: figure out what Aucklandness was all about. No easy task
That’s no easy task. I did consider wearing a Crusaders jersey, or painting my face black and red, or interjecting with a raucous Caaaanterbury… But no…

Auckland is an interesting city, vibrant and always plenty going on. There was a good crowd eager to hear about their city and literature. The city was a common link between the authors… chair Paula Green waxed lyrical about the melange of cities, landscapes, remembered and invented Auckland.

Stephanie Johnson has published several novels, and been a Katherine Mansfield scholar and is also one of the main people behind the festival. She joked that most of her books were set in Auckland “because I haven’t been anywhere else”.

Derek Hansen used to worked in Advertising. That’s very Auckland, where lots of people used to work in advertising.

Paula Morriss likes to look at maps and some of her work is inspired by how things appear when laid out on paper. Shanghai is a nostril in the beak of an eagle, Auckland like a seahorse.

The whole world is in Auckland Johnson said – so huge and tumultuous; a frontier town where people seek fortunes, take opportunities, tough and fair-minded, unique in NZ…

Derek Hansen says Auckland goes beyond geography – a mature cosmopolitan city, a city of the world, unique. Wellington pretty but very small…

There was no talk of BMW’s or traffic or prices, which is what I associate with the stereotype of Auckland. Poet Karlo Mila said to me in an interview immediately prior to this session – that Auckland was an octopus – long-tentacled arms wrapping her and wounding her body.

I liked that analogy – Auckland reaching out to the south and north and pulling people and resources towards it, ever-hungry. She also said it was a ‘trickster’ of a city. I put it to the panel. Is Auckland an octopus, a trickster?

Derek Hansen said it would be a strange looking octopus; Johnson agreed, saying it would be more of a giant squid. Everyone has a different experience, she added.
Paula Morriss preferred her seahorse image.

And with that the session ended. I left pondering the presenters’ sidesteps to the question, but got a different sort of answer in Aotea Square. The market day was in full swing and the Auckland Art Gallery were doing a promotion.

I took the opportunity and sat in the chair. Welcome to Auckland, pal.

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