Pantograph Picks: Going West Books and Writers Festival 2017

Books Editor Sarah Jane Barnett gives you her top picks for Going West 2017.

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The roof of the Titirangi War Memorial Hall caught fire a few weeks ago, but rest assured, the Going West Books + Writers Festival will happen Friday 8 – Sunday 10 September in West Auckland. The festival has been going since 1996 and has stayed true to its mission to support, celebrate and share writing from Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific. Books Editor Sarah Jane Barnett gives you her top picks.

Opening Night
7.00pm – 10.00pm, Friday 8 September 

Every year, Going West marks the memory of Allen Curnow, a generous friend of the festival, by inviting a noteworthy New Zealand poet to read in his honour. This year, Selina Tusitala Marsh will share poems from across her writing life, including reflections on her recent experience as Commonwealth Poet performing at Westminster before the Queen and readings from her new collection Tightrope.

I'm a massive fan of the poetry goddess that is Selina Tusitala Marsh (our new Poet Laureate!), so would go to this event simply to see her dazzling light. But wait – there's more! The opening night will also feature journalist and commentator Rod Oram as the Sir Graeme Douglas Orator, and a performance by poet Bill Manhire, composer and pianist Norman Meehan, vocalist Hannah Griffin and saxophonist Blair Latham of Small Holes in the Silence, a selection of New Zealand poetry set to music. 

Experiments Across Worlds
11.00am – 12.00pm, Saturday 9 September 

In her latest book, Tears of Rangi: Experiments Across Worlds, Dame Anne Salmond takes readers back to New Zealand in 1840, when two peoples with very different assumptions about how the world works meet and try to make sense of each other. Drawing on her lifetime of research and learnings, she then returns us to current debates, exploring how we are still capable of ‘experimenting across worlds’ to find new ways to tackle the global challenges we face.

If this isn't enough, the kick-ass Dame Anne will be joined on stage by musician and self-confessed political junkie Moana Maniapoto to discuss where history’s lessons might take us. Moana Maniapoto

Contrary Creatures
1.45pm – 2:30pm, Saturday 9 September

I'm a fan of both Pip Adam and Kirsten McDougall, two of New Zealand's most talented and exciting writers. Both write realist fiction that plays with the unreal and the mythic. Both describe themselves as contrary creatures and ‘bookish nerds.’ Both work in the book industry and have a lifelong obsession with fashion. 

Together, they will discuss the contrary delights in their latest works: Pip’s novel The New Animals walks the streets of contemporary Auckland city – read our review; Kirsten’s novella Tess is a gothic love story set in Masterton at the turn of the millennium, where a young woman on the run from trouble finds herself drawn into a difficult family drama – read my interview with Kirsten. I bought both of their books as soon as they hit the shelves. This session will be a sell-out.

Exploring the Underworld
9.15am – 10.00am, Sunday 10 September

I went caving once, and being lowered into what looked like a blowhole was amazing and terrifying. I probably wouldn't do it again (even elevators make me claustrophobic), but I want to go to this session. Though nearly every corner of our country has been explored and mapped, exploration beneath our land is still in its infancy. Caves are places of mystery where few people dare to venture. Caver and writer Marcus Thomas and intrepid caving photographer Neil Silverwood talk about their new book Caves: Exploring New Zealand’s Subterranean Wilderness with Kate Evans. They hope that by sharing their knowledge and experience, more New Zealanders may be inspired to enjoy and protect this precious underground world.