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Support 'Minimal' For Poetry Festival

The Wellington International Poetry Festival

From 3-6 November, 2005, the International Poetry Festival was held in Wellington for the third time, opening up an opportunity for writers and readers to have immediate contact with colleagues from around the world: a world-famous performance poet from Japan, a leading Irish poet, the best-known living Japanese writer of haiku, a young voice from Russia, the controversial Algerian Ahmed Zaoui in his role as a poet, and many more writers from Mexico, India, Australia, Canada, USA and elsewhere. There were also some interesting New Zealand voices to be heard. The centrepiece was a documentary film called “Poetry in Wartime”, introduced by Sam Hamill, who features in the film and who founded the worldwide movement, Poets Against War, which now has centres in more than thirty countries and membership in the tens of thousands.

Sadly, although there was an impressive list of sponsors on the programme, official support was, in fact, minimal. And where were the writers and readers of the region? Self-appointed arbiters of literary taste in the capital were noticeably absent; the students who crowd into creative writing courses did not take the opportunity to expand their experience of international poetry; those who teach literature in the tertiary institutions were nowhere to be seen; the published writers of Wellington, with a few exceptions, failed to acknowledge their colleagues. In addtion, apart from Radio New Zealand and "Good Morning T.V." (T.V.1), the Wellington - N.Z. fouth estate (especially printed media) were nowhere to be seen

The organisers of the festival feel understandably discouraged and, no doubt, embarrassed at the small audiences the poets from far and near encountered. On the principle of “use it or lose it”, Wellingtonians and other New Zealanders are at risk of losing a chance to make contact with broader worlds. It is puzzling that a country so isolated geographically should turn its back on an opportunity to span continents through the power of poetry. This festival will die without your support. The festival is grateful for all expressions and contributions of support. Please add your signature, return this email to us and indicate whether you are able to help the festival in any other way.

Dr. Nelson Wattie (Writer and Translator, New Zealand); Ron Riddell (Writer & Festival Coordinator, N.Z.); Saray Torres (Translator & Festival Coordinator, Colombia); Neil Furby (Writer & Event Coordinator, U.K./N.Z.); Alejandro Caballero (Escritor, Chile)

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