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2002 Buddle Findlay Sargeson Fellows Announced

Thursday 14 February 2002

The Sargeson Trust and law firm Buddle Findlay have announced that writers Riemke Ensing and Denis Baker are the 2002 Buddle Findlay Sargeson Fellows.

The fellowship provides an opportunity each year for one or two outstanding writers to write full time in residence in a central Auckland apartment, with a monthly stipend to cover living expenses.

Frank Sargeson qualified as a lawyer before committing himself to full time writing and a day-to-day struggle that he described as ‘physically, mentally and financially exhausting’. Buddle Findlay senior partner Michael Dineen says the fellowship not only helps to relieve some of the financial pressure many writers face, but also provides a pleasant environment that helps to stimulate a writer’s creative talents. “The use of the flat provides an environment where a writer can relax and concentrate more fully, free from the pressures of daily life,” says Mr Dineen.

“The Buddle Findlay Sargeson Fellowship is now in its sixth year and a considerable number of works have been produced by fellows during this period. Buddle Findlay values commitment and excellence so we are pleased to continue supporting outstanding New Zealand writers,” says Mr Dineen.

At 62, recipient Riemke Ensing is the oldest recipient of the fellowship to date. Riemke, of Howick, Auckland, has lived in New Zealand for more than 50 years since immigrating from The Netherlands with her family in 1951. She taught at the University of Auckland for many years, before taking retirement to write full time and being appointed an Honorary Research Fellow (English) by the University.

With more than 30 years as a published writer, Riemke is responsible for a rich body of poetry. She has to her name nine volumes of poetry, the most recent of which, Talking Pictures - Selected Poems, was published by HeadworX in 2000.

During her fellowship, which runs throughout February and March, she intends to begin work on her first major prose work, which she calls a “portrait” of her mother.

“My mother, who died five years ago, was a truly remarkable woman and a huge influence on me. I have just finished an extended piece about my relationship with her, which I plan to extend into an exploratory journey about my mother and her life.

“My mother’s life in The Netherlands and later as a migrant in New Zealand, bears witness to her amazing strength of character, intelligence, perseverance and resilience and it is this that I want to capture in prose.”

Riemke says she expects the residency to facilitate the development of the work: “It allows me the time and space on my own, free from interruption, to concentrate on the work and create a momentum that will sustain me for a period after the tenure.” She says it is likely she will also write some poetry during her stay at the Sargeson Centre.

Recipient Denis Baker (35), also Auckland-based (Parnell), takes up his fellowship in April for the remainder of the year.

Denis has published numerous short stories including a collection Floating Lines in 2000. Others have been broadcast on National Radio. He has also written a number of magazine articles. His first novel On A Distant Island, being published by David Ling, is due out this year.

“I am a writer. Writing is the only thing I’ve wanted to do and the only thing that has truly made sense to me.”

Denis says that while writing the novel, he accepted the position of Director of Studies at a private English language academy, attracted by the pay packet and the desire to further an alternative career to writing. After six months working more hours, and writing less and less, he resigned to work on the novel full-time. “Now the novel is finished, my savings are gone and I teach just enough to pay the bills. I’m flat broke, but am writing well and have never been happier.”

Denis says the fellowship will give him a rare opportunity to live as a writer, uninterrupted for the best part of a year, without having to divide his time with other commitments.

“The fellowship provides not simply remuneration, but a residence and recognition that what I do is a job and that there is a contribution to be made. One I’d be honoured to make,” he says.

Denis will use the opportunity to work on two main projects. There are a number of short stories he would like to complete as part of a new collection. “Two stories in particular involve the themes of technology and information and how it influences our lives in the present day.”

He is also eager to begin work on a new novel. “I’m interested in exploring the great contradictions in people’s lives and the choices we make, often to our own detriment.

“I’d like to have a look at the purposes these contradictions and choices serve, and how we maintain these facades for ourselves as well as others.”

The Sargeson Trust first established the fellowship in 1987 to give selected New Zealand writers an opportunity to work free from the financial constraints with which Frank Sargeson had to contend.

In 1997 national law firm Buddle Findlay became the first commercial sponsor of the fellowship. Sargeson Trust chairperson Christine Cole Catley says Buddle Findlay’s sponsorship has undoubtedly helped much more quality New Zealand literature to emerge.

“Frank Sargeson encouraged so many writers in his time, the whole writing community rejoices that this practical help carries on,” she says.

(ends)

Notes to the editor:

Recent Buddle Findlay Sargeson fellows (from 1997 onwards) include:

Vivienne Plumb, Chad Taylor, Shonagh Koea, Diane Brown, Catherine Chidgey, Sarah Quigley, Tina Shaw, Kapka Kassabova, Sue Reidy, James Brown, and Charlotte Grimshaw.

Past Sargeson Trust fellows include:
Janet Frame, Alan Duff, Kevin Ireland, Michael King, Marilyn Duckworth.

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