Sunday, April 10, 2011

All Good Things...

...come to those who wait.
I am having a fantastic time in Wellington. It was a hard decision coming back down here. Particularly as I know the Auckland writing scene seems to be coming into its own recently. And I had already spent four years down here as a BA student... what more was there for Wellington to teach me? Plenty, as it turns out.

For example, last night Wellington taught me that Kiwis... even Shortland Street actors... are fully capable of putting on authentic sounding American accents. They can even do this while babbling nonsense and/or screaming on stage in front of dozens of people. If you don't believe me you should go and see August: Osage County, playing at Circa.
In fact, you should do that anyway. It blew me away. Consider ear plugs.

So how are my classes going, I hear you ask? They are quite lovely, as a matter of fact. And I'm not just talking about the view.
So far as guest speakers, we have had a Keats scholar (who told us a lot of 200 year old gossip, which was somehow still fascinating) the writer in residence Albert Belz and Ken Duncum, both playwrights who talked to us about story and narrative, as well as Bernadette and Damien (our tutors).
I also really enjoyed meeting Lesley Wheeler who sat in on our class, in order to learn about creative writing courses in New Zealand (she's an American poet), and was kind enough to read us some of her own poetry.

It is exciting to find myself inserted into this nexus of such brilliant NZ writers. I don't just know people who know people (who know other people)... I actually know people myself! It is ever so slightly intimidating.

Case in point: We are having Lloyd Jones and Jenny Bornholdt as guest speakers this week... a huge double header. I'm so excited. I can't decide if I should bring books along to ask them to sign (is that pathetic? just slightly? OK, I can live with that). Alan, my poetry tutor over the summer, told me that poets adore being asked for autographs, but that authors possibly do not. On the other hand, this is New Zealand we're talking about... I doubt many (any?) NZ authors get mobbed on the streets, or need armed body guards at their signings.
On the other other hand (is this a third hand? grotesque) Lloyd Jones deserves to be mobbed in the streets. Just a little. In a good way.

OK, so anyway, stick to the program. So, classes have been interesting so far. We mostly do an exercise over the week, then read them out for an on the spot critique by the group (mine have so far been pretty bad, but I guess the point is to improve). At first we all clapped, and just said what we liked, but gradually clapping has been replaced by gentle critiquing (which is much better!). And next week we start handing in parts of our portfolios to be critiqued over a longer time, so it's about to ramp up.
Bernadette is also my supervisor, and I meet her every two weeks, for an hour and a half or so. I worried at first at what we could possibly say to fill in that time, but mostly I tell her about stuff that I find interesting that can go into the folio, and she listens to me blab like a crazed monkey, then gently points out a few things I should change. She really wants me to strip out the metaphors, which.... when I thought about it, was a good idea. I mean, not just in the whole modern, kill-metaphors-on-sight sense, because frankly I don't agree with that so much.
But, at the moment, poetry seems a lot like sculpture to me. Something is in the marble (my entire possible experience of a particular thing being the marble), and I'm cutting away what needs to be cut away to reveal it. In that light (which is subject to change) metaphors seem akin to painting the marble, (which the Romans used to do...) and that just doesn't seem right.

OK, enough of this.

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