100 years ago last week at Craiglockhart Hospital for Neurasthenic Officers in Edinburgh, Wilfred Owen introduced himself to Siegfried Sassoon and one of the great literary friendships was born. Wilfred was recovering from shellshock, deeply traumatised by his time on the Western Front in 1917. Siegfried, grieving and angry at the deaths of his friends and men in his unit, had protested against the continued conduct of the First World War. After intervention from Robert Graves, he was sent to Craiglockhart rather than face a court martial. As the aspiring poet Wilfred was well aware, Siegfried was already a moderately famous poet. In the few weeks together they had in Scotland, Siegfried encouraged and mentored Wilfred.
Wilfred was killed on 4 November 1918, exactly a year after he left Craiglockhart and a week before the Armistice, however in the time between meeting Siegfried and his death he produced some of the most famous war poems, including Anthem for Doomed Youth and Strange Meeting. Their shared influence can still be felt today – their works are still taught in school, and Siegfried’s quote “I died in hell; they called it Passchendaele” has been widely quoted in the ongoing commemorations of the Third Battle of Ypres.
We know so much about their friendship as they both wrote about it – Wilfred in excited letters to his mother and Siegfried a couple of decades later in his volume of autobiography Siegfried’s Journey. This documentation has provided excellent source material for modern authors looking to portray the two poets. They are the subject of a two-hander play Not About Heroes which covers Craiglockhart in Act One and their different paths in Act Two. Intimate and moving, this is a powerful play (but having directed it a few years ago I am quite biased).
Perhaps the most well-known depiction of their friendship is in Pat Barker‘s award winning Regeneration Trilogy. However, in Barker’s interpretation of Siegfried’s time at Craiglockhart, his friendship with Wilfred is overshadowed by his connection with his doctor, W. H. R. Rivers. There’s a lot going on in the trilogy – the cultural construct of masculinity cracking under pressure, mental health, sex, pacifism – and Siegfried and Wilfred are only one strand to this. Rivers is perhaps the main character and the marvelous fictional creation that is Billy Prior dominates the last two books.
I’ve mentioned before how Billy is possibly my favourite literary character. He’s the working class kid who becomes an officer; he’s bisexual; he’s somewhere on the continuum of sanity and insanity; he’s a split personality. He’s so many things that in some ways he shouldn’t work but – to me at least – he does. Billy and Rivers tie the trilogy together.
And so a chance meeting 100 years ago is still being interpreted and played out today; the voices of those caught up in conflict still resonating.
When I first heard of Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day, I immediately thought of someone heading off in the dead of night with a new poem in one hand and a pot of paste in the other. The poem would then be pasted onto a wall or lamp post for us to read the next day. I was wrong. Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day is a day for everyone from novice and curious to professional poet to have the opportunity to share poetry and revel in its magic. To get involved and explore and share poetry. Discover New Zealand poets, and go on a magical, mystical journey.
National Poetry day is held on the last Friday in August each year. There will be poetry events in the lead up to Poetry Day, featuring local poets and The School for Young Writers. there will be something for everyone.
This year Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day will be on Friday, August 25th. The organizers are promising us a one-day national poetry-event extravaganza.
I enjoy poetry. I love the way the words swirl in my imagination and form pictures in my mind. I like having poetry read to me. On the 25th of August, I’ll be borrowing a book of my favourite poems and maybe someone will read to me while I close my eyes and relax.
Christchurch City Libraries is running two events:
Performance Poetry with Greg O’Connell Friday 25 August 10am to 10.30am, Shirley Library, 36 Marshland Road
Come along, be part of the fun…and experience poetry like never before!
Shirley Library is hosting a special poetry performance by children’s poet Greg O’Connell in celebration of Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day Perfect for kids aged 3 to 6 years. Find out more.
Poetry Workshop with Greg O’Connell Friday 25 August 4pm to 5pm, New Brighton Library, 213 Marine Parade
Are you a young person who loves to write poetry? If you answered yes! enrol in our free poetry writing workshop today! Ages: 6 – 9 and 10 – 13 years. Greg O’Connell is a poet, performer and literacy educator.
Limited spaces, bookings essential. To book phone 941-7923. Find out more.
More events and competitions
The Great Wall of Poetry UBS Canterbury is celebrating the readers and writers of poetry by building a Great Wall of Poetry. You’ve got until 20 August to enter.
Find out more on the Facebook event.
Take Two: Poetica: The Christchurch Urban Poetry Project
Young Poets Open Mic – ages 6 to 12 Young Poets Open Mic – ages 13 to 25 Thursday 24 August 4.3o to 7.30pm
XCHC Café and Exhibition Space, 376 Wilsons Road. Find out more on the Facebook event.
Sight and Sound at UBS Friday 25 August, 12:00-1:00pm
University Bookshop, University Drive, Ilam Come and see the University Bookshop’s poetry wall and hear James Norcliffe and Jeffrey Paparoa Holman. The winner of The Great Wall of Poetry competition will be announced and guests will be invited to read the work submitted by the members of the public. Find out more on the Facebook event.
Poetry Live, Christchurch! Friday 25 August, 5.30pm-7.30pm
Exchange Café (XCHC), 376 Wilsons Road, Waltham Be part of Poetry Live, Christchurch! at XCHC on Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day. Covert poets, come out of the closet in a friendly place. Join established poets, reading at the Open Mic. Free; koha appreciated. All ages welcome. Find out more on the Facebook event.
Politics and Poetry: Sailing in a New Direction (Title from the opening of Curnow’s ‘Landfall in Unknown Seas’) Friday 25 August, 7:30 to 10 p.m.
Space Academy, 371 St Asaph Street Join us in this exploration of politics within poetry – and the poetry within the politics? Ben Brown, Danielle O’Halloran, Ray Shipley, Doc Drumheller, Andy Coyle and 20/20 Collection poet James Norcliffe will be reading work that engages with the big issues. Free entry, all welcome. Find out more on the Facebook event.
Free Public Workshop – Warm-down event 10.30-12.30, Saturday, 26 August 2017
The Writers’ Block, Hagley College, Hagley Avenue Free public Saturday workshop with renowned Lyttelton poet, Ben Brown. All welcome. Please register by Monday 21 August.
For further information and to register please contact Director, Morrin Rout, Hagley Writers’ Institute |Phone: 03 3299789 |Mob: 0210464189 |Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Poetry Phone – Warm-up/NPD
In this great warm up for National Poetry Day you can txt or call Poetry Phone live poetry readings 022 300 8164 or 021 474 555. Poetry lines are open from Wednesday 23rd to Friday 25th August, round the clock. You can also make poetry requests for friends & lovers, and we will give them a call. Send requests to email@example.com or 022 300 8164, be sure to include a bit of info about the recipient so we get the right poem for them. Entry Details: R18, usual txt and call charges apply. Date/Times: 23-25 August, phones open round the clock.
Poetry in a Box – Many Places at Once Christchurch – Lyttelton Coffee Co/ Henry Traders / Lyttelton Market. Poet David Merritt will be touring 25-30 poems in a box around a cafe, library or market or seat bench and invite members of the public to read them. Free and open to all ages. Date/Time: Varies slightly from one venue to another but mostly 8am – 3pm, Friday 25th, Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th August
Find out more in the Facebook event.
National Online Poetry Competition Tararua District Library is celebrating Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day with our Online Poetry Competition for the whole country. Have your poem published online and be in to win a prize and the glory. Competition open 10th July to 20th August 2017. Winner announced 25 August. Up to 2 poems per entrant will be published on the Tararua District Library Blog. Find out more.
Feel A Little Poetic? Join poet Jenny Palmer and illustrator Evie Kemp, creators of the bestselling Feel A Little book, to make your very own blackout poem! Children of any age can print, create and share a Shy or Happy feelings poem at www.feelalittle.com. Free event open to children of all ages. To enter, find printable forms at www.feelalittle.com and submit completed with contact details via email firstname.lastname@example.org or social media www.facebook.com/feelalittle and @feelalittlenz by Poetry Day Eve 24 August 5pm
VOLUME Poetry Spam (Junk Poetry Competition) Choose a piece of spam or junk mail, an advertisement or other unsolicited words (either printed or received by e-mail). Write a poem using only the vocabulary of the piece of junk you have chosen. Entry details: Free to enter. Open now to all New Zealand residents. Submission Dates: Entries must be received by 18 August. Send to email@example.com or to VOLUME, PO Box 364, Nelson 7040. The winner will be announced on National Poetry Day (25 August) and in our newsletter
Download instructions at http://tinyurl.com/poetryspam
What are you looking forward to doing in Christchurch?
I think just walking around the city again, taking it in. I haven’t been there for 3 years or so so it will be nice to scratch its back again.
What do you think about libraries?
I love them. I feel connected to the world when I’m in a library. And to a specific locality at the same time. And I feel like I’m around people who love stories and books. Libraries are full of kindred spirits.
What would be your “desert island book”?
I’ve just bought Les Murray’s ‘Bunyah.’ So it would be a perfect chance to glory in it.
Share a surprising fact about yourself.
I am made of 37 trillion cells that have no idea who I am.
Hokitika Bill, Hokitika Bill. I remember chanting this poem aloud at Primary School.
Poet James K. Baxter was born in Dunedin on 29 June 1926. His parents were thinkers – his father Archibald was a conscientious objector and Millicent, his mother had been to College in Sydney.
The dichotomy of social order was represented by his family – his maternal grandfather was Māori, his paternal grandfather was Scots. This fed his mind with the differences and similarities between Clans and Tribes.
Baxter began writing poetry from age seven. His work is said to have become technically accomplished by the time he was a teenager.
Good poet (at least I think so after attending a reading last year – perhaps I’ll know how to tell for sure after this event), Harvard Professor of Poetry and an engaging speaker, Burt will be in conversation with Fergus Barrowman from Victoria University Press.
I love poetry events – people are passionate about it so the questions tend to be on the intense side, and even better can spin out into wildly inappropriate statements of opinion. Somehow opinions on poetry are so much more interesting than opinions on non-fiction, which mostly centre on how much more the ‘questioner’ knows than the author.
“A lively discussion” is promised, but I’m hoping for a bit more than that.
Why would one read a literary magazine in the time when novels are still the hottest form on the scene? Because reading a literary magazine is like being young and ready to fall in love every day fresh. You can pick up the read you fancy, and if you realize you made a wrong judgement, you can very easily let it go, because – guess what? There is another one waiting for you when you turn the page. No hard feelings, no strings attached!
Takahē is a New Zealand literary magazine published in Christchurch and has been on the scene since 1989. Its core repertoire consists of short stories, poetry and art by New Zealand writers and artists, and often extends to essays, interviews and book reviews. The magazine is a good starting point for emerging literary talents and offers a place for their first public appearance along with established writers.
Takahē is published twice a year in a print form (in April and December) and as an online issue in August.
One of the prevailing themes of April 2016’s issue is motherhood, or the biological and relational obstacles preventing motherhood. Lucy-Jane Walsh (These Things Happen) brings a fresh insight into a life of a young woman who cannot have a child but forms an unusual friendship with someone else’s (at the same time it cleverly captures the nuances of the craziness and obsessiveness of modern parenthood). Suvi Mahonen in Little White Crescent dives into details of medical checks and scans of a pregnant future mother, while much more darker side of deficient pregnancy comes to life in Meagan France’s Grace.
The other topic that floats up to the surface is – of course – love, or various forms of love and its cousins (David Hill’s On Special, Melanie Dixon’s The Cottage, Sarah Penwarden’s Mirror Ball, Rupa Maitra’s Eve).
The second topic that recurs is writing (The Celtic Gift by Juliana Feaver and Kate Mahoney’s Flight from New York).
As far as the dating goes, I would definitely revisit Nathan Bennett’s Washed Up (only Birdling’s Flat can inspire such weird yet beautiful story about the relationship you don’t come across very often), Melanie Dixon’s The Cottage (with a witty perspective on a rather sad ending of a romantic weekend), Michael Botur’s This is God’s House (complex and unusual relationship narrated in dynamic slang and persvasive style) and Bev Wood’s Ode to Gallipoli (lyrical meditation on peace with an elusive narrator).
What can offer a better shelter to love than poetry? In this issue it comes hand in hand with its ancient partner – death. Under the mindful study of surrounding the pain of passing reveals itself (The Hospice Room by Robert McLean, Rachel Smith’s Light and Shade) and so does singularity of existence through proximity of death (Sarah Penwarden’s poems). How presence and absence are both immanent to love is evoked by Julie Barry in You are now not. Iain Britton’s verses from Calling go further and transcend into cyclical time: binding with ancestors in order to stand, singing in order to weave people together, emerge past and present.
Love can be destructive as well. Venus fails to pursue her artistic calling because she makes the same mistake again – i.e. falls in love (Jenny Powell’s Marlene Dietrich in Gore for the Gold Guitar Awards). The answer to her problem is hiding in sea snails – as Kirstie McKinnon points out they will teach us about letting go.
More existential orientated poems will explain why it is always good to keep your passport on you – or begin at the end (Frieda Paz in Road, map, direction, begin), otherwise you might end up stuck on the bridge – like a subject in Julie Barry’s Preposition of place. Liang Yujing offers a new metaphor for life – heavy school bags on young pupils and big black mouth of a primary school devouring them. Can we escape? No, as Mary Cresswell proves in her poems, adequately pairing themes of artistic and existential crisis (or blocks) with old troubadour’s poetry forms. But as Julie Barry points out in her Grapefruit, the weight of humanity is too much for one and only branch we live on anyway. And this is not all, I am leaving other joyful jewels for yourself to discover!
Takahē regularly offers essays on art and latest book reviews. April’s issue will be of a special interest to Christchurch readers, as it brings to focus Lisa Walker’s revolutionary jewellery (written by curator Felicity Milburn), which can also be seen as an exhibition in Christchurch Art Gallery – Te Puna o Waiwhetu until the 2nd April 2017.
Being a wonderful relic means I still thrive every Saturday morning when I browse through the good old printed paper while sipping the first morning coffee. These days, I am paring this ritual with an early evening one which includes wine and Takahē. Both combinations are perfect and correspond well to each other. I urge you to try them both.
National Poetry Day Celebration Readings 12.30pm at Scorpio Bookshop in Hereford Street. Winners of the Hagley Institute 2016 Poetry Day competition will be announced by judge James Norcliffe and there will be readings from Frankie McMillan, Bernadette Hall, Christina Starchurski, Teoti Jardine, Jeni Curtis, Marisa Cappetta, Rose Collins and the competition winners. Part of WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival.
Speaking proud Thursday 25 August 6pm. Event to raise funds to continue the work of Q-topia, an organisation that supports LGBTQIA+ Youth in Canterbury.
New Regent Street Pop up Festival Thursday 25 August, 6pm – this WORD Christchurch event includes Lady Poets at Shop Eight – a badass, subversive poetry show like no other! Lady Poets celebrates the voices and stories of women and genderqueer poets and performers. MC: Audrey Baldwin. and Catalyst at The Last Word – Catalyst is a literary arts journal committed to experimental and non-traditional creative forms: song lyrics, script/screenplay excerpts, spoken word, rap, visual poetry, and more.
Poetry at Parklands – the Poet within 2pm. Parklands Library draws on “the poet within”, within the Christchurch City Libraries that is. That’s right, many of our librarians are writers too. Instead of dispensing poetry books on the day after National Poetry Day, four of our librarian-poets will be reading their own work. The poets are Damien Taylor, Rob Lees, Dylan Kemp and Andrew Bell.
Go down to The Terraces and see the poetry on the banks by Apirana Taylor. Wander further afield and see Ōtākaro to Victoria nā Hinemoana Baker at a mini-park at 108 Victoria Street. There are also poems on power poles on Victoria Street: Whakapapa by Ariana Tikao, and Victoria Street by Ben Brown. There are always fab poems about the town thanks to Phantom Poetry posters as provided by Phantom Billstickers.
Poems in your pocket
Why not put some poetry in your pocket? Download this year’s poems from the National Poetry Day website including one by WORD Christchurch guest Tusiata Avia.
Bill Manhire is one of New Zealand’s leading poets and writers. Bill is a mentor to New Zealand writers, founding the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University. He was New Zealand Poet Laureate for 1997-99 and is the driving force behind several anthologies of New Zealand poetry,
The Stories of Bill Manhire brings together The Stories from The New Land : A Picture Book (1990), South Pacific (1994) and Songs of My Life (1996), the choose-your-own-adventure novella The Brain of Katherine Mansfield (1988), and one of my favourites the memoir Under the Influence (2003); a charming memoir of growing up in pubs in the South Island.
An incredibly versatile writer, Bill has also contributed to a wonderful work for children, The Curioseum: a collection of writers’ impressions of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, collaborated with artists, and has had his work put to music by Norman Meehan in Small Holes in the Silence.
What are you looking forward to doing in Christchurch?
I have only been to Christchurch once before in my life, way back when I was a teenage backpacker, and all I remember is getting lost looking for my hostel and standing on a street called ‘Barbados’ in the pitch dark and pouring rain, so maybe I will try and recreate that moment from my youth.
What do you think about libraries?
I find them enormously relaxing. Something about being surrounded by all those books. If I’m having a bad day I will sometimes go into the library at my university and stand in the shelves and recompose. A surprising number of people have this response to literary places, like libraries and bookshops and as libraries transition into the digital space I think they need to be aware of the important role that huge rooms filled with physical books play in the emotional lives of the public.
What would be your “desert island book”?
I used to think this would be Proust, but then I read the first volume and hated it. I liked Middlemarch a lot, but can’t imagine finding the time to read it again in a non-desert island scenario, so I’ll pick that.
Share a surprising fact about yourself.
I have very soft earlobes. Softer than anyone else’s.