New nah? New year ;)

It’s great to have started 2015 with a bang! After a huge December that involved receiving an arts grant from CNZ to write my next book (of short stories) Tail of the Taniwha (yay yippee yay) followed by a trip to Rarotonga to spend time with family, and then the usual eating-your-body-weight-in-xmas-ham shenanigans: I was looking forward to a fresh new year, full of empty days!

This week I’ve had the honour of being a guest for the Prime Minister’s Youth Programme, I was able to brunch with these incredible young women and to also run a writing workshop with them – with the greatest hero of our nation  Willie Apiata in the mix: Nation’s best inspire teens (NZ Herald)

I have a few things on the horizon that I’m especially looking forward to, Silo Theatre’s Working Titles 2015 first and foremost, what an outstanding opportunity to work with passionate people, dedicated to creating innovative environments of connection.

One day you look at your life, and all of the suffering and confusion that you imagined to be lulls between living, suddenly strike out as the bridges that delivered you to somewhere unimaginably beautiful. May we all find the smooth side of whatever life throws at us in 2015 <3


With the amazing girls on the Prime Minister’s Youth Programme 2015



turtles all the way down

It’s easy to become used to a certain set of conditions, the daily spells we live under that in essence – meet our needs. I have a lot of books by my bed that I keep meaning to read, and a few red pen to-do lists that calmly gather dust (not speed) while I do my best like most of my gen y counterparts, not to spin off the face of the earth.

In times of crisis we are called into action by a force beyond ourselves, and the lists must be crossed off in hindsight and the books must written in real time. The following is a thought piece written by my mother Kim Meredith Melhuish, who inspired this post:

“As a Pacific community we do not have a monopoly on shame, many other cultures are also obsessed with this emotion. Throughout post European contact shame has become embedded as a motivating force to spur our Pacific people on, to always do the right thing, to make the right decisions with the objective of making our families and communities proud. Last week my family celebrated another milestone for our daughter Courtney Sina Meredith, CNZ have awarded her funds and recognition toward a body of work she will produce. I can’t tell you how proud and happy we felt, I felt. Across the ditch in Sydney a woman of almost similar age, of Samoan ancestry gave birth to a boy after concealing her pregnancy and then abandoned him by dumping him into a stormwater drain. My rage, pity and shame matched the extent of pride I felt for my daughter, boundless! I knew that almost 29 years ago I experienced the pressure of not fulfilling family expectations.

I recall my mother and father silent with embarrassment at a daughter pregnant and not even the prospect of a husband in sight. Luck was on my side, I’d been a rebel without a cause for some time, there would be no redemption for me but at least I was free to make a choice about the future I wanted – my beautiful Courtney. Across the ditch in Sydney, it’s as if time has stood still, that the value of shame is still the driving motivator for some of our young people not to put a foot wrong, to somehow magically know how to always make the right move but how can they when the chasm between how we aspire to live has no resemblance to how we actually do live, doing our best and occasionally tripping up. So many people will be horrified that a woman would rather kill her baby than stare into the faces of her disappointed and shamed family. Perhaps it shows we might be in the 21st century but for many of our Pacific communities when it comes to relationships, sex, and the values assigned to women we are still in the dark ages. It’s time to be real and come out into the light.”

I’ve read this commentary a few times over the last couple of days and my responses have curved from luminous and damning to a feeling of numbness followed by frustration and the desire for change. Maybe there are too many things left unsaid that we simply believe others to know, almost instinctively. For all of the ways that life has rushed at me, and others like me, small unplanned miracles that clung on for dear life regardless – the framework we have for freedom is unreliable if we cannot apply it from the most robust to those in need.

So what is it that we aren’t saying as a people? That we are perfectly imperfect, that culture cannot be ‘heightened’ or made more so through martyrdom and flagellation. That there is a far greater monster awaiting us all in the present moment – than any imagined eternity in flames. That we cannot afford to simmer within identity politics, faith associations and financial shame while the real festering of emotional poverty kills off hope at the speed of light. Our great plague of shame is self-hatred perpetuated by a multiplicity of factors including the deep seeded doubt that we are not ‘enough’ simply as we are. Let the life of this baby boy herald a new era, a dawning of customs based on prosperity of life, forgiveness, generosity of spirit and the claiming of our essential selves, embattled but real.


I circle Japan Mart
walk out with mismatched ideals

nail clippers my brothers will never use
a 3D eraser shaped like a unicorn

squares of shoddy Pikachu gum
blue and hard as the capital winds.

Further down the path they sell tin
badges of birds and bunches of insects

the couple behind me head off to find food
he wants something spicy and she feels like cake

isn’t that just like love? and the bowl of hills surrounding?

One seduced me to its peak at sunset
I ended up alone in the dark

wanting the faint light back
grey and trickling.

Handy tips from mum

blogThis is my greatest treasure. While starving in London trying to find myself, this was the one thing I couldn’t find that I was so sure I had packed! Evidently I hadn’t, yesterday it was unearthed from the back of a shelf in the lounge. Why is this book so important to me? It was a gift from my mum for Christmas 2006. The first 30 pages are full of, as she puts it, ‘tips from the school of life.’ Over the past 8, almost nine years, this book has become a trove of precious memories, notes to myself in my early 20s and small writings from others. Here are some of my favourite handy tips from mum and a couple of other gems.

Mum’s Handy tip #1

Given your genetic pool, and that’s saying something when you consider your father and I, you will have suffered your fair share of dead beats, opportunists, and the occasional psychotic whack job. Yes, dating can be a bit like reaching for something at the back of the fridge – rank! So handy tip #1 – don’t eat in your bedroom. You’ll attract mice, ants and bacteria galore. Keep your bedroom a dead-beat free zone.

Handy tip #2

‘Family’ is just another term for staying in touch your entire life with people who drive you insane. They are the framework, reference points of your life. We can focus all of our love, or pure white anger on them and regardless of whether or not they return the love/ evil, they will always be there. Just as the year has seasons, so we do we in our liking, loving and loathing of family.

Handy tip #3

Never flat with friends. You will eventually see all their sides, good/ bad, first thing in the morning (how they didn’t quite flush the loo) and you will wish upon them a plague of acne, herpes and debt, etc.

Handy tip #4

At all costs avoid the flat with a roster for chores and meals, taking our wheelie bin etc. A roster is a sign that in this flat lives an alpha male/ female with control freak issues badly wanting to play them out on unsuspecting flatmates. Even if you have moved in, paid rent and only then discovered the roster – give notice immediately and head for the hills!

Handy tip #5 

Buy things with cash, hire purchase is just a sexy way to buy things you can’t afford. Recycling by buying other people’s stuff is affordable. Life sucks having monthly payments on things that depreciate as soon as you get them home from the shop.

Handy tip #6

If you’ve read all the way up to here in one reading you simply have too much time on your hands, or else you’re procrastinating so: look around – see anything that could do with a clean? Go for it!

Handy tip #7 

When special becomes very special. Only the sun has a special connection to everyone in the world. You on the other hand, should aim for a handful of people who are very dear to you. Why? Fleeing from stalkers (ring a bell?)

Handy tip #8

The things we sweat about, the things that keep us up at night – are not as bad as we think. If you find yourself stressed, wound up, or fixated on one particular thing, step back, take a few deep breaths and attempt to see your life from a different perspective. Are you just exhausted? Lonely? Bored? Hungry? Be a good friend to yourself and be part of the solution. And if you’r still a nut job after all of that, ring a good friend or come round home for a good feed.

Photo on 2014-10-21 at 17.42 #2

Just before my first writers’ residency in Berlin 2011, I had the most wonderful afternoon with Lloyd Jones at a cafe in town (Auckland). Seeing as he’d written such a wonderful book in Berlin (Hand Me Down World – which is evidently one of my favourite books of all time), he very kindly shared with me lots of advice about the cultural capital of the world, and he drew me a few maps of some of his favourite places there. If you’ve been to Berlin you’ll know and love the Tiergarten too.

This little piece of hot pink paper is much more than a map to me, it’s a cherished moment in my history where I truly felt – included in life’s chit chat. That one meeting has given me a rare appreciation for being on both sides of the table. Being vulnerable with your ideas takes astronomical courage, when I’m teaching and my students open up about their aspirations and goals, I call all of myself to the fore – to be present – to be engaged – giving your full attention is more important than anything you say.

Photo on 2014-10-21 at 17.42 #3

This is a poem written by one of the most talented, funny and self defined ‘un-poetic and more into rugby miss’ boys I’ve been lucky enough to teach. I was giving a workshop over a few days, he didn’t speak much, sat at the back staring out of the window at the field. When it came to presentation time, he pulled this poem out and the quiet, macho, distracted boy I met on day one — transformed into a ten feet tall warrior.

We both taught each other something special, that we could trust ourselves to deliver against the odds, whatever the conditions, regardless. I’ve read this poem all over the world, one day when we cross paths again, I’ll tell him that and he’ll probably crack up.


Letter to a young poet

I started writing poems and songs when I was very little, there are funny family photos of me at 3 years old on a mic, with a keyboard guitar, singing my heart out. I’m still singing my heart out in new and compelling ways that make me want to get up in the morning but there are plenty of mornings they don’t warn you about in high school, in university, in the corporate world – mornings where you face the page wondering what’s the point of it all?

I often wanted a manifesto like the small one I’ve assembled below when I was just starting to get published and I was performing my works to brand new audiences who didn’t know me from a bar of soap, when I was doe-eyed and overwhelmed by the opportunities around me, when I thought I would implode if I didn’t write, when my poems felt like fireworks blowing up across the page. I had no idea how threatening a young poet could be to people who had taken a very long time to establish themselves, I had no idea how threatening an opinionated young brown woman could be if you placed her on the world stage, and I definitely had little idea that I would have to learn how to be that person and to safeguard my heart from the rushes, falls and bursts of life.

For someone who speaks up often, I still find it takes all of my strength to separate the life my work has taken on by itself and the woman who stares back at me in the mirror. I have allegiances to spirits, I have faith in the education that encouraged me to become a critical thinker, but I also give myself permission to challenge my critical thinking, to close read texts and sometimes to just read with total unquestionable joy.

I’ve made it because I always knew what ‘it’ was for me – my mother was the first poet in my life, she used to read her poems to me when I was a girl and now I read my poems to her and that feels richer and more brilliant than all the gold in the world. My brothers tell their English teachers that their sister is a writer and they share their stories, speeches and poems with confidence. I open my book and there’s my grandmother’s dedication, she travels all over the world, something I knew she always wanted to do when she was alive. My cousins and my friends feature heavily in my works, they are a new history alive and breathing, inspiring beyond words. My parents are passionately on this journey with me and they always will be, that’s more than enough for anyone to say about their craft, and now and then my poetry performs little miracles of its own accord like the wonderful translators, publishers, editors, producers and artists brought into my life purely through my writing. The family of people around my words are the real creations of my works, an abundance of special characters that I couldn’t have written better myself.

1. On making new worlds with your bare hands: don’t stop to consider this one

2. All kinds of people will walk into your life, it’s not your place to mend or keep or hoist or canonise them

3. Mix with minds that challenge you, if you find yourself in the company of the cooing/ nodding variety.. move on

4. Take a good look at your lover, are they an intellectual exercise machine? (be honest)

5. Feel things, put them on the page, look at the page on different days, look at the days on different pages

6. You are as good as you think you are

7. Poetry is art, expect (pray) that not everyone will ‘get’ it

8. Make friends with visual artists, they can see the scenes that you can only feel that they only wish they could articulate – win/ win friendship

9. For each great project have a list of great people to bug on the days when you feel defeated and blue

10. The tutor who harshly marks your writing isn’t the be all and end all, one day you will hit your stride and it will be effortless. In between, do yourself a favour and watch funny films, get lots of fresh air and spend time perfecting family recipes

11. The best days have a day after and the worst days do too, the day-afters are gifts to start again.. and again

12.  Write from your gut, your gut is unrepeatable, your experiences are historical one-off works of art waiting to be written

13. Read a lot, feast on the classics, dive into different kinds of poems often, challenge the part of you that pulls away from certain forms, you don’t have to love everything but it pays to be informed

14. There is nothing ordinary about your life, nothing that could be improved or diluted, you have everything you need to be great.

© Courtney Sina Meredith 2014



Edward Snowden Worldwide Reading – Akl

snowden flyer - working draft 1

Liberty & Recognition for Edward Snowden: Worldwide Reading – Akl, facilitated by the internationales literaturfestival berlin and supported by writers around the globe including Noam Chomsky, Ulrich Schreiber, Martin Amis, Irvine Welsh, Claribel Alegria, Michael Ondaatje, Marina Warner and many more.

Join us for an evening of texts about surveillance in support of Edward Snowden with writers Serie Barford, Amber Esau, Courtney Sina MeredithMichael Onslow-Osborne and Albert L Refiti at Beatnik Publishing on Monday 8 September 2014, 6.30pm.

On the same date other readings will take place in Germany, Great Britain, Iceland, Colombia, Norway, Austria, Sweden, Serbia, Slovenia, South Africa and USA.

With this worldwide reading, we call on the United States Government to recognize that Edward Snowden’s revelations are of essential importance for the safeguarding of democracy in the digital age, and thus that his actions must be seen to be covered by the Universal Unwritten Rule of the Ethical Right. Washington should therefore immediately lift all legal charges and complaints against Snowden, so that he can return home safely as a free man.

We further demand that the Member States of the European Union, in recognition of the importance of his revelations, immediately grant Edward Snowden asylum in the EU, for as long as he may need it and at least until the US Government has lifted all charges against him.

Finally, we ask that the Nobel Committee consider Edward Snowden for the Nobel Peace Prize – in recognition of his amazing, selfless service towards democracy, freedom and peace for us all.


He has a round face
eyes like his mother
a nose like his father
both of their faces layer his skull
both of their souls peer out of his mouth.

He has a voice that carries
his voice moves through the TV
he can be heard at night
shattering the sky
he can be seen at dawn
gathered in plastic.

I watch his face
inside his voice
unlike his mother
unlike his father
not the elders
swinging flags

no, the cold sun
the sullen moon
who moves too,
even for this son.