Whakanuia: Pantograph Picks for LitCrawl 2018
From 8–11 November 2018, LitCrawl Wellington returns for its fifth year of celebrating local, national and international writers. The main ‘crawl’ of LitCrawl happens in three phases on the evening of Saturday 10 November, while LitCrawl’s Extended Series features extra events from Thursday 8 to Sunday 11 November. With so many incredible events to choose from, it’s a recipe for serious fomo. To help ease the pain of your indecision, Matariki Williams, Lucinda Bennett and Hannah Newport-Watson bring you our top picks.
9pm, Friday 9 Nov
Meow – Tickets $25/$18
In my experience, the LitCrawl folks have an excellent eye for international poets. Earlier this year they partnered with New Zealand Festival to bring Scottish poet and performer Harry Josephine Giles to Aotearoa. I was completely beguiled by Harry’s frank, funny, subversive poetry and intelligent conversation. Harry’s reading of a bawdy poem about butt plugs in the Poetry International session was a full-body immersion in the Scots language as well as a hilarious and delightful brown-eye in the face of polite poetry. If you missed Harry’s poetry session with Chris Tse, I recommend Elizabeth Heritage’s review and wholeheartedly endorse her call for Harry to come back to Aotearoa again soon.
Meanwhile, here’s an excellent opportunity to catch three of LitCrawl’s latest international guests in action. Kaveh Akbar (Iran / US), Raymond Antrobus (UK), Doireann Ní Ghríofa (Ireland) are joined by Aotearoa poets Tayi Tibble, Dominic Hoey, Erik Kennedy, and Hadassah Grace, hosted by Ray Shipley. HNW
10am, Saturday 10 November
Wellington Central Library – Free
How often do you see kids’ interests specifically programmed into literary festivals? I hope you say ‘never’, because otherwise I’d feel like a bad parent who hasn’t looked out for enough activities for my kids. Kids seem to go nuts for a treasure hunt, so sate their needs with a map of the Wellington City Library and watch them traipse the many floors of the library as they try to find a story from Bill Manhire, David Larsen, Giselle Clarkson, Michael Petherington, Susan Paris, Kate De Goldi, Gavin Mouldy, Kate Camp and Elizabeth Patrick.
You need to register to avoid large disappointment from small people. MW
11.30am, Saturday 10 November
Te Auaha, Tapere Iti – Tickets $20/$15
Calling all high school nerds like me who have ever dreamed of starting your own literary journal! Fergus Barrowman, editor of Sport, leads a discussion with the editors of Aotearotica, Headland, Landfall, Food Court, Mimicry and Starling. Landfall is the longest-running arts and literary journal in Aotearoa. Aotearotica is the raciest. Food Court is so young and so cool it doesn’t even have a website. The full journal gamut is represented here, and it will be an excellent chance to glean some trade secrets. HNW
2.30–3.30pm Saturday 10 November
Te Auaha, Cinema
On a recent visit to the Elam studios, I noticed a strong theme permeating much of the work in development. Dozens of young artists seemed to be making deeply personal work about their experiences of anxiety. Once identified, synchronicity took hold and suddenly I was seeing anxiety everywhere: in our galleries and theatres, on the pages of books and the scroll of online journals. Admittedly, as someone living with anxiety, I am primed to seek out or read into this content, and yet the ramping up of anxiety as a central concern in our art and discourse – especially in that of our rangatahi – is undeniable.
Across Aotearoa, artists and writers are trying to make sense of this thing called anxiety, this turbulent, frustrating, coercive, looping thing that one in five New Zealanders will experience in their lifetime. It therefore came as no surprise when I learned that a new book, Headlands: New Stories of Anxiety, would be telling “the real, messy story behind these statistics.” I imagine much of the audience for this panel will be people like me, who ‘understand’ anxiety all too well. For us, this kind of event (and publication) is a balm, an opportunity to feel less alone, and to perhaps glean some wisdom. But I would urge others to go, or to check out Headlands so they might better understand anxiety and the way it can affect us. LB
THE CRAWL – SATURDAY 10 NOVEMBER
PHASE ONE – 6.00–6.45pm
The Body Electric
Hunters and Collectors
“Putting [queer] work out into the world takes a lot of bravery,” writes Jackson Nieuwland in their recent essay about queer literature in Aotearoa, “the same kind of bravery it takes to show affection to a partner of the same sex in public or for someone assigned male at birth to wear a dress out of the house.”
Emma Barnes and essa may ranapiri, who feature in Jackson’s essay, appear in this session alongside Harold Coutts, Sam Duckor-Jones and Ray Shipley. The event promises “readings that tackle queerness, intimacy and acts of defiance”. I’m particularly excited about hearing poet and visual artist Sam Duckor-Jones, whose recent collection People from the Pit Stand Up is filled with understated and beautiful lines like this one from ‘Blood Work’:
I touch & I touch & I am never touched
These babies determined & peering
through the owl light believing
themselves into existence
Guest curated by Chris Tse. HNW
Starling: Meet the Residents
Bartley + Company Art
As far as working spaces go, galleries are second only to libraries. They tend to combine the three environmental factors I personally need (or at least, would really like) in order to write: calm lighting, people conversing in mostly hushed tones and decent coffee within walking distance, if not in the building. And then there’s the artwork, something to peer at above your laptop, wander amongst while you stretch your legs and fingers, to refresh and to contemplate.
The greatest gift you can give a writer is space and time – and time in this day and age often means enough money that they can pause whatever side-hustle they have going on and devote themselves entirely to their writing, even if only for a weekend. In a genius and generous move, this year LitCrawl has collaborated with online journal Starling to pair six brilliant young writers – Rebecca Hawkes, Isabelle McNeur, Eleanor Merton, Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor, essa may ranapiri, and Ruby Solly – with galleries around Te Whanganui-a-Tara for their inaugural micro-residency programme. None of these writers are art writers per se, so it will be fascinating to hear whether and how the gallery spaces and their exhibitions might have influenced their writing. LB
PHASE TWO – 7.15–8.00pm
If you’re a Harry Potter reader, I’m sure there are still some deaths that continue to haunt you (I just read The Cursed Child so HP is front-of-mind). Same goes for residual childhood trauma thanks to Charlotte’s Web. If you need to eulogise, in public, with others, here’s your chance as Ines Almeida, Jane Arthur, Jerome Chandrahasan, Matt Powell and Emily Writes reflect on literary deaths that they’re not yet over.
Only thing is that I wish that I knew who each of these speakers was going to be talking about so I could prepare accordingly but I guess that would jeopardise the social norm of SPOILER ALERTS which are imminently applicable here. MW
I believe Freya Daly Sadgrove is a genius. And she kind of knows it – but most of all she wants you to know it, and somehow that whole situation is a recipe for comedy gold. Alongside Freya in this event are Madeleine Chapman, Brannavan Gnanalingam and Megan Dunn, all of whom will read their funniest work aloud, hosted by Eamonn Marra. Hie thee hither for some good lols. HNW
PHASE THREE – 8.30–9.15pm
In the eleven years since Harry Potter finally triumphed over Lord Voldemort, J.K. Rowling has made something of a tradition out of apologising for the many characters she sacrificed along the way. I was personally traumatised by what happened in the garden at Shell Cottage, and recall having wet-cheeked dreams about a certain someone falling through a certain veil… but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. One of the purest pleasures in life is shedding tears for fictional deaths, feeling the sadness without any of the consequences.
And then there are the other literary deaths (spoilers ahead). The grislier, quieter, more unexpected, more deserving, less deserving. A Japanese spy skinned “like a peach” in Murakami’s Wind Up Bird Chronicle. Lennie, shot mercifully in the back of his head before the mob finds him. Ophelia drowned beneath a crying tree. Myrtle under the wheels of a car, Gatsby’s blood turning the pool water pink. Neither Humbert Humbert nor Dolores Haze make it out of Lolita alive, indeed, both their deaths are outlined in the story’s fictional foreword.
This talk, featuring Annaleese Jochems, Steff Green and Elizabeth Knox, sounds like one I’d relish – three brilliant (yet very different) authors being held accountable for their choices, describing the thought processes behind killing without consequences. LB
Offerings of Anger and Faith
Saint Peter’s Church
Turns out legendary Wellington theatre director, performer and writer Jo Randerson also writes poetry. It shouldn’t really come as a surprise – she is an astonishingly ambidextrous artist who just seems to pop up all over the place, making and doing things.
Her theatre company Barbarian Productions makes work ranging from epic large-cast productions like White Elephant to politically charged yet playful, participatory community projects like Sing It To My Face. She’s just been in Auckland to perform in Soft n Hard (reviewed by Hannah Banks here) in the Tempo dance festival. Her essay ‘How to Die’ is one of my fav pieces of writing on the Pantograph Punch. As an Arts Foundation New Generation Laureate, Jo’s done workshops in high schools, and she also teaches on the real-life business of making art in Victoria University of Wellington’s ARTS402 course. And as if all of that isn’t cool enough, Barbarian Productions is the only performing arts organisation in Aotearoa to become an accredited living wage employer.
Jo Randerson is a force, and I for one will be curious and excited to read her first poetry collection. As well as readings by Jo there will be music by Waylon Edwards. HNW
Lit-Sync for Your Life
How often do you get to see Pip Adam, Simon Sweetman and Tayi Tibble face off against some of Wellington’s finest drag performers? This event is hard proof that Chris Tse has magnificently upped the glamour factor of this year’s crawl. If you like karaoke, drag and slam poetry, this is surely the perfect segue to the LitCrawl After Party, which starts just up the road at Meow at 9.30pm. HNW
EXTENDED SERIES continued
11am, Sunday 11 November
Te Auaha, Tapere Iti – Tickets $20/$15
My most visceral interaction with the Gaeilge language was at my local pub, The Bodhran, when I was living in London. One night, my flatmates and I got talking to some of the Irish regulars about Irish and Māori histories and were subsequently sung songs about the great famine. After having swapped home addresses in both Aotearoa and Éire, we left with faces streaming with tears.
This is all to say that there are many synchronicities in our experiences of language loss and the work to revitalise. But don’t just take my word for it, listen to the incredibly accomplished Doireann Ní Ghríofa and Scotty Morrison having a kōrero with Brian Morris of Huia Publishers – because, after all, a bilingual future needs bilingual publishing. MW
Writing Art Right for Aotearoa
2pm, Sunday 11 November
City Gallery Wellington – Free
What is the current state of art writing in Aotearoa? That is the question posed in this session, with many sub-questions tucked neatly inside like Russian dolls. What is good art writing? What is the role of the arts critic? Who should be writing about art, and whose art should be written about?
“New Zealand today is still a tough place in which to keep an art magazine alive,’ wrote Justin Paton in Art New Zealand back in 2001. The economics of art writing is still the elephant in the room – alongside the other elephant: the smallness (ha!) of the arts scene in Aotearoa. “This is a country where a friend of mine can eviscerate another friend in print and I must walk a line between them or choose a friendship to lose,” wrote Karl Shuker in 2017. He was talking about literary criticism, but the art scene is small, no doubt about it. But is it size that’s really the issue, or our cultural attitude towards critique?
“The number of times I have been called a bad New Zealander for panning local artists that have otherwise been lauded is staggering … Writing in an environment where negative reviews have become an anomaly does not benefit anyone and does not accurately reflect the true experience of art,” Kate Powell wrote the other day on the Big Idea. “The state of mainstream arts criticism in New Zealand is akin to the self-eating snake that is beginning to choke.”
Well, that sounds a bit dispiriting, but I think there’s more to the story. I’d argue we have a diverse cohort of young art writers who are reinvigorating strong, critical art writing in Aotearoa. Come along to hear Pantograph Punch editors Matariki Williams (Kaupapa Māori Editor), and Lana Lopesi (Editor-in-Chief), in conversation with art critic Anthony Byrt and Simon Gennard. HNW
LitCrawl 2018 runs from Thursday 8 November to Sunday 11 November. Find the entire LitCrawl 2018 programme on their website.