'Poets Under Pressure' produce the goods

  1. Take six talented creative writers and poets. 
  2. Place them in the stunning setting of an international photographic exhibition, by a giant in photo-journalism. 
  3. Introduce a ten minute time limit and a bit of competition
  4. Set them to work writing poetry, knowing the audience would be the ultimate judge!

Simple ingredients + amazing talent = 9 stunning pieces of original poetry

This was the scene on National Poetry Day 2015 in the exhibition space at Te Manawa Art Gallery Palmerston North.   Participant poets Oprah Oyugi, Kristelle Plimmer, and Mary-Jane Duffy teamed up against the creative writing team from Massey University Joy Green, Thom Conroy and Leonel Alvarado in the ambient-lit gallery.  They were paired off against each other under the watchful eye of MC Richard Mays, editor of the Tribune Newspaper, and given just ten minutes to produce poetry in response to photographs chosen by audience members.  

In addition to having to write, the poets each had to read out their poem, and listen while the audience chose the winner from each pair by the level of clapping - tense stuff for some participants, for which poetry writing is a crafting process which can take up to many years to come to the point of actually fruiting a poem!  All were good natured about it, and willingly participated in the interests of 'the higher goal'.  Thanks to that attitude we are able to use these, works as part of KUPU, to encourage others to write poetry.

The winner?  Oprah Uyagi, a student studying Creative Writing with Mary-Jane Duffy at Whitireia Polytechnic.  Here is the original take on the first verse of Oprah's poem 'Alahu Akbar'.  To read the full poem click here.

'Miss Dust' finds 'Spring'

Poems on the walls of the Central Library in Palmerston North are the works of local poets Johanna Aitchison and Tim Upperton, and are part of the 2015 KUPU PoetryBeyondWords programme.  Both works were installed on 27 August 2015 in time for National Poetry Day.  Johanna and Tim each have a reputation for their superb and distinctive crafting styles.  We are pleased to bring these examples to the attention of the public through this initiative.

KUPU Poetry Anthology is officially 'released'

catch and release:  Poems from Manawatu’ is the first e-publication from City Libraries and Community Services.  As part of the experimental poetry programme KUPU - PoetryBeyondWords, the book is one of a series of initiatives designed to engage the community in poetry writing.  Around two hundred and fifty submissions of poetry and proverbs were received and we’re thrilled with the response.

One of the aims of KUPU is to provide an avenue for poets of all levels to develop their engagement activities with local audiences, and act as a stepping stone in artistic development.  The point of the ebook was to create a piece of work that the contributing poets could use to profile their poetry.  “It is challenging starting out” says Genny Vella, City Cultural Coordinator.  “Being able to include publications in personal profiles and biographies adds a little more weight to the body of work poets are able to call on to demonstrate their talent”. 

Ten poems were selected from forty submissions.  The result is a lovely anthology of works by known and previously unpublished poets about Manawatu – the creative expression of heart and place.

Counting down to ‘catch and release: Poems from Manawatū’

Thanks to the contributions of poets Paula King, Megan Norris, Margi Mitcalfe, Deborah Thompson, Joy Green, Lynne Kohen, Nicola Easthope, Christopher Tuffley, and David Fountain ‘catch and release:  Poems from Manawatū’ is the first of what is hoped will become many creative e-publications produced by the Living Room of the City.  The initiative is part of Palmerston North Libraries and Community Services’ experimental poetry programme ‘KUPU – Poetry Beyond Words’.  This poetry anthology is one of several programmes designed to engage the community in poetry writing. 

“For many years we have wanted to find a way to nurture growth and interest in creative writing", says Janet Ellery, Manager Planning and Performance.  "KUPU is our effort to be active about it, to put forward a number of community engagement initiatives to make poetry-writing and enjoyment accessible to as wide an audience as possible.  Sometimes people can feel intimidated about trying it.  We’re trying to help people overcome this, and hopefully discover a love for this creative and adaptable form of expression”. 

“At the same time, as a public library, we’ve been contemplating how to address the issue of community-generated content creation.  KUPU seemed an obvious vehicle to try some different things to engage the community around creation of poetry.   With the growth in self-publishing, we felt we should test this avenue and experiment with how well it could work to showcase talent in the poetry writing community.   The result of months of effort is what we think is a lovely anthology of poetry about Manawatū – a creative expression of heart and place”.

This interpretation of “Manawatū” provided the opportunity to consider submissions about the connection of heart to place, and try to convey the very human truths underlying the sense of belonging and connection.  “We’ve tried to capture this essence in the design aspects of the book", says Janet.  "The nine layers of heart represent each of the nine poets whose work is included in the book.  The rings, starting from that heart centre, expanding across and off the cover represent both the concept of place, and the purpose of KUPU which is to release poetry from the confines of the page”.  Many of the submissions were from local writers.  Other contributions came from further afield, including the Kapiti Coast and Nelson.

catch and release:  Poems from Manawatū’ is being launched this Thursday at 6pm at the Central Library.  This is a public event, which will feature readings from three of the contributing poets.  


‘50 Greatest Photographs’ by National Geographic

On now at Te Manawa Art Gallery

It is small wonder that ’50 Greatest Photographs’ has captured the imagination of New Zealanders, which includes 50 images selected from a photographic archive spanning over 120 years, personal commentary by the photographers, and in some cases "near frame" photos taken before and after the perfect shot.  The result is a beautifully textured and rich collection of imagery and words that have the potential to form and reshape one’s understanding of our world.  “It really causes you to stop, think, re-think, and come back”, says Kristelle Plimmer, Concepts and Engagement Leader at Te Manawa Museum.  “Once just doesn’t seem to be enough to view the exhibition and take in all that it is conveying.  Perhaps that’s the definition of a good exhibition.  We like to think so at least”.

Genny Vella, City Cultural Coordinator of Palmerston North Libraries and Community Services couldn’t agree more.  “You can’t help but be moved by this exhibition.  There’s no doubt that some of the images are shocking.  But there’s also this interesting quality about others in that, at first glance, it is almost possible to miss the essence of the image because of their resemblance to what we know as ordinary. The layers of complexity start to unfold on deeper examination, and with reading the photographer’s commentary.  I found that in some cases it required a kind of collective recollection and conversation with friends, who inevitably saw things, and read meanings that I missed.  It’s one of these collections that has the ability to be affecting in much deeper ways than one realises at the time of viewing”.

"I highly recommend this exhibition for viewing" says Kristelle.  "It is a great opportunity for school groups, multicultural groups and interest groups to experience together, and with viewing times daily, return visits are welcomed and encouraged.  People can also leave a poetic response to the photographs, or to the exhibition as a whole, by visiting Poet's Station in the exhibition gallery.  This is our way of encouraging the community to reflect on and respond to what they've seen". 

’50 Greatest Photographs’ is open for viewing daily from 8 August to 11 November 2015 at Te Manawa Art Gallery, 326 Main Street, Palmerston North.  Entry is by donation.

Next Stop - Poet’s Station

National Geographic’s ’50 Greatest Photographs’ is now on at Te Manawa Art Gallery.  Selected from an archive spanning over 120 years, these images capture the timelessness and depth of the human and natural condition in an extraordinary feat of non-verbal dexterity. 

Chief Executive Andy Lowe is thrilled to bring this exhibition to Palmerston North.  “National Geographic has more than lived up to their world-wide reputation for excellence in photo-journalism.  The exhibition has achieved international acclaim.  Each image conveys a complex mix of circumstance and story-telling through a connection with the viewer that is provocative, emotive and relatable all at the same time”.

“I’m very much looking forward to the public response to the exhibition” says Andy.   “And since it is launching in what we unofficially call ‘Poetry Month’, we set up Poet’s Station to capture the public’s poetic responses to the photographs.  People can write a poem about an image or the exhibition, and post it in Poet’s Station for others to read and enjoy.  Palmerston North Libraries and Community Services have developed a number of ways to exhibit poetry this month, and these contributions will go on to form part of those exhibitions”.  For more details visit Showcase Ideas.

“National Geographic are particularly happy with the prospect of the community engaging through poetry with ’50 Greatest Photographs’”, says Andy.  “At the end of the exhibition we’ll be sending the poetry off to their Head Office”.

’50 Greatest Photographs’ is open for viewing from 8 August to 11 November 2015 at Te Manawa Art Gallery, 326 Main Street, Palmerston North.  Entry is by donation.  While you're there visit Poet's Station to leave your poetic contribution.

Meet Miss Dust

Meet Miss Dust: mother, child, teacher, cheater, lover, liver, dreamer, enthusiastic coffee drinker and star of this new beautifully crafted book by much-admired poet Johanna Aitchison.  Aitchison’s trademark inventive and frequently surreal use of language has, in the words of publisher Helen Rickerby of Seraph Press, “been honed and crafted into this truly unique collection in a style that is utterly her own”.

Johanna originally trained as a lawyer, and changed careers to become a writer.  Her published works also include her debut chapbook Oh My God I’m Flying (Pemmican Press, 1999), and her collection Long Girl Ago (VUP, 2007), which was shortlisted for best book of poetry in 2008. Johanna joins the KUPU Diamonds with a special work that will be announced shortly.

Shortly Johanna will leave for the United States to participate in the International Writers Programme at the University of Iowa.

Miss Dust is now available in bookshops.