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Fellow poets’ new work on show at UC

Three very different visiting writers currently based at University of Canterbury (UC) will read both new and published work at Fellow Poets tonight, 15 August, 5 – 6.30pm.

Fijian poet and philosopher Sudesh Mishra, Professor in the School of Language, Arts and Media at the University of the South Pacific, has been at UC for the past six weeks as an Erskine Visiting Fellow. The author of five volumes of poetry, two full-length plays and several short stories, Professor Mishra has been engaged at UC teaching creative writing, but has found time to write two poems on a new topic.

“I’m interested in going back into a childhood state of mind and to see the world from the perspective of children playing. It really is the most creative point of your life so to go back there is a divine gift.

“Being magically omnipotent, not being able to make any distinction between play and reality, that’s fascinating me. And in the poetry I try to express the sense of loss in an adult at the end of the play, because one leaves that kid behind and can only watch from the present view of the adult with a deep sense of nostalgia.”

Another focus is how poetry plays a particular role in raising political and environmental awareness, Professor Mishra says, by shifting readers’ perspectives and even expanding their consciousness.

“These are interesting times. I’m not sure they are good times - I mean they are good times here because you have a rational prime minister - but globally it’s pretty dark. That is very good for writing because dark times gives writers a subject to think and write about, not only the rise of the right wing but the crisis in the climate. How we arrived at this position is what I’m interested in and how we reconfigure our relationship to nature. I want to be part of that conversation.”

Professor Mishra is looking forward to trying out several unpublished, and previously unread, poems on the UC audience.

Poet Alison Glenny, from the Kapiti Coast, will also read at the event. She recently commenced a six month Ursula Bethell Residency in Creative Writing at UC, which is jointly funded by UC and Creative New Zealand to support Aotearoa New Zealand writers and foster new writing.

The Antarctic theme of Glenny’s first collection, The Farewell Tourist, was informed by a Postgraduate Certificate in Antarctic Studies at UC, which included a trip to Antarctica. The collection won the 2017 Kathleen Gratton Poetry Award.

During her residency Glenny, who has an Honours degree in English and Masters in Creative Writing from Victoria University of Wellington, is working on a project inspired by the experiences of Edwardian female alpinists closer to home in Tiritiri-o-te-moana the Southern Alps.

Also at UC on an Ursula Bethell Residency in Creative Writing, Lawrence Patchett is a Pākehā and Cantabrian writer of fiction, who is a UC alumni with a BA (Hons). He has a PhD in Creative Writing from Victoria University of Wellington, and a Diploma in Te Ara Reo Māori from Te Wānanga o Aotearoa. His most recent book, The Burning River, will be published by Victoria University Press in October.

Patchett will use his residency to work on the early stages of a novel exploring the involvement of his ancestors in armed conflict over land in Aotearoa New Zealand. His first book, I Got His Blood On Me: Frontier Tales, was awarded the NZSA Hubert Church Best First Book Award for Fiction.

Glenny and Patchett are both available to provide advice to Creative Writing students while they are based at UC.


When you surfaced,
Berry-eyed, boxer-nosed,
Cub of the ocean,
We were ruminants
Startled out of ourselves,
The deliberate, alluring hunger,
The browsing on interior lives.
My rubbery periscope,
My submarine voyeur,
How you nod from left to right,
From right to left,
Now as you did then,
Wet brat of inspiration
Affecting dolour
In a crestfall of whiskers.
I hold you a moment,
Flourishing generation,
Then let slip,
Squeezed dollop of oil,
Primordial ooze
In a growling mill
That never shuts down.
Who could ever endure
Your vanishing?
Even as you vanish
Without sound or slick
Beneath coupling waves
To sprout, aeons later,
Sooty sapling, turgid root,
Your tail a swivelling T
Against a furious dusk:
Turner. Template. Tree.

My seal,
Dryad of metaphor,
You struck me
Before I could strike you,
A marine fever
That respects neither mind
Nor season,
But bewilders the heart
In the quiet of arid places,
A recrudescence of happiness.

From Diaspora and the Difficult Art of Dying (Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2002) by Sudesh Mishra.


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