Come along if you can <3
It’s been a phenomenal few weeks (months, truly) and there are some exciting things on the horizon!
I hosted yesterday’s ‘Neighbourhood’ on Eden Terrace and it was awesome because I was able to feature quite a few family members and great spots around my hood that have become family-ish and give me the warm fuzzies whenever I think of them. You can check it out on demand here Eden Terrace in the house!
The Auckland Writers Festival 2015 kicks off this week and I have to say that I was really blown away by this year’s programme that features Haruki Murakami and Carol Ann Duffy and many more. As part of the festival this Sunday May 17 I’m excited to be discussing Janet Frame’s first novel ‘Owls Do Cry’ in a panel led by Kate De Goldi alongside Anne Kennedy and Damian Barr, you can find out more about the event here This opportunity is pretty special to me because I’ve always adored Frame, especially her posthumous collection The Goose Bath that unwittingly entered my life at a time when I was similarly found and unfound in a collection of loose leaf poems.
As some of you would know, I was a very grateful recipient of a Creative New Zealand Arts Grant last year in November for my project ‘Tail of the Taniwha’ – a new book of short stories. Writing this manuscript since December 2014 has felt a bit like trying to tame an actual taniwha while now and then gleaning indescribable beauty and finding out new things about myself and my process. I’m very excited that two works out of ‘Tail of the Taniwha’ that were written earlier this year, were recently selected for publication within an upcoming volume on pacific culture in collaboration between both La Trobe University and Melbourne University. I have to credit a formidable team of supportive and excellent individuals who have constantly encouraged me to push myself out of myself – beyond my ribs and ideals and comforts – out into startling unknown.
There are other really cool things coming up, including more poetry workshops for some fantastic organisations working with youth and domestic violence survivors, I’m grateful for the chance to connect with so many strong people across Auckland. I will be holding public readings for ‘Tail of the Taniwha’ in the coming months, I’ll be sure to post up times, dates and locations on here so I hope to see some of you soon!
Malo universe! Today I embarked upon a brand new journey for Rushing Dolls with the beautiful souls from Silo Theatre for Working Titles 2015, the uber talented Rachel House and new kids on the block Gaby Solomona and Trinity Po-Eparaima – who I have to pay exceptional respect to – for giving the work a good dose of love!
Everyone contributed something new and interesting to my understanding of the script, and for me (so far) the real gift has been the objectivity gained through watching Rachel being ‘thorough’ (she said the most kick ass thing to me on the phone the other night – that as she’s gotten older she’s gotten more thorough – amene to that!) and through hearing how Gaby and Trin experience the characters from the inside looking out.
I’ve done some serious living since writing Rushing Dolls, and thank God I just went for it when the spirit moved me – I had no idea at the time what great challenges lay ahead, love and loss in equal painful measures. They say tortured artists make great work but I love the sunshine I feel in this play, rich with crashing and unrelenting verse soldered together by incredibly idealistic prose that you can only commit into print when you really are that optimistic about the world and everything feels within reach. I still feel that way about most things, my politics haven’t swung drastically to the right ha – but I also have a new clarity that the things we create are not finite. All parts are part of a swooning mercurial whole that cannot be articulated, measured, refined or taken into your arms.
Hey friends and fambamily, I’m giving a FREE poetry and performance workshop in Otara this week (MIT) for youth aged 16 – 24, as part of the Youth Arts Space initiative with support from the Ministry of Health’s Rheumatic Fever Prevention Programme Pacific Community Innovation Fund to improve awareness and help to reduce rheumatic fever.
A huggee shout out to the TYLA Youth Development Trust crew for making my last workshop the best one yet – giving me a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet some of the most promising young women in this country! I’m pretty sure most spaces are taken for this week’s shenanigans, but if you’re keen to spend a few days doing AWESOME stuff across dance/ visual arts/ wordy stuff with me and general awesomeness, then PM me or email your name and contact details to email@example.com
A big thanks to Aaron Taouma and the team at Youth Performance Trust for making these workshops possible, chur!
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A truthful glimpse into my practice: I love to write to loud music. We have some great Mission speakers at home and a red turntable that aptly sets my little red lipstick heart on fire. Here is a list of the usual suspects that I blare in the living room while I’m trying to strike a balance between the zoo in my head and the blank page in front of me. They are in no particular order and of an equal respect, love and infinite inspiration… A good song can put new life into your bones when you truly feel like tossing your laptop off the deck. I hope a few of you will reply with your favourite songs to create to as well!
Anyone who knows me well, knows just how much I love and adore my cousin, the artist Danielle Meredith. You would’ve seen me turn up at an exhibition opening looking like I literally just finished work and managed a gulp of water before hurriedly applying lipstick, usually in the reflection of a framed print, or even in the middle of the gallery – using my sunglasses as a make-shift mirror, and you would’ve noticed the beautiful pristine woman beside me: that’s Dani.
As girls, we did everything together and it was evident from very early on that the powers that be, had paired us with absolute finesse. When our grandma made us hard boiled eggs, Dani only liked the yolk and I only liked the egg white. When we coloured in together, Dani liked the bright colours and I found the dark ones interesting. She had a fastidious way of colouring inside the lines, loving applying different shades to different pieces of clothing, whereas I would colour whole families dark brown, or black, or grey, with no regard for the intended shape. If she was picked on at kindy, I was the one who would throw bark at the big boys and scream at them to ‘leave my cousin alone!’ with one hand on my hip and the other pointed right between the eyes of whatever enormous bully stood in my way. But it was Dani who would rock me back to sleep if I woke up after having a nightmare.
I’ve often thought over the years that we should’ve been one person in one body, as separate individuals we inhabit extremes that can only be balanced with the other. I’m very good at starting things, Dani is very good at finishing things. I’m comfortable speaking out and shooting from the hip, Dani ruminates and chooses her words carefully. There is a power between us that I’ve never been able to wholly articulate, even after basing my award winning play ‘Rushing Dolls’ on our relationship. Every major trip I’ve had overseas, or the times I’ve been able to discuss what inspires me, where the words come from and where my ideas are formed – Dani is so intrinsic to everything that touches on those motivations and who I am and who I have become, that I often absorb her into that hip that I shoot from and I forget to see her as an independent woman.
We were in our early twenties and I was studying law and arts, trying to navigate my way through a myriad of dense texts that made me feel like an alien in my own skin. Dani invited me to an arts awards event, it was down town and I remember feeling like I had nothing to wear. When I walked into the gallery, the first thing I saw was a painting of the two of us. It was a moment that changed my life forever. I felt as though there was no better way to exist than to spend ones life honouring and acknowledging those that you love the most. She gave me the opportunity to see myself, the way that she saw me, and when she won second place that evening I howled like a baby and I didn’t care who could see me crying because I had come home.
The years that followed were a matted entanglement of throwing myself into the arts and confronting the part of myself that was scared of ending up poor and homeless under a bridge. I left law school to dedicate myself to becoming a writer, I turned up to my lectures with a different perspective, I wanted to find the connection that Dani had found between herself and her practice. She will never realise completely, the way that she led me out into the world, by example.
Dani was the first person to invite me to the MIT Faculty of Creative Arts, which was then the Manukau School of Visual Arts, for an open day that boasted some of the most interesting and beautiful artwork I have ever seen. She led me through the halls with a huge smile on her face, she had a lot of cool and creative friends who popped up from different spaces, peaking their heads around corners and waving, doing the fingers, rolling their shoulders to a beat in their heads. I was grateful that those same friends welcomed me with open arms and gave me everlasting friendship and support that I enjoy and honour to this day.
Last week I began a new job as the Project Manager for that very same Creative Arts Faculty, at MIT, on Lovegrove Crescent just around the corner from the township that Dani walked me down and introduced me to. I get off my bus, close to where she used to get off hers, and when I walk into my office, the blank walls call out for her bold and wonderfully intricate paintings. There are people in my department who used to teach my cousin, and they trust me based on the trust they had and always will have, in who Dani is as a creative and as person of great integrity. I have heard of ‘Meredith’s’ hanging on the walls of the leadership team, who seek to navigate the institute through national waters and towards an international impact. It gives me an indescribable joy to be known as Dani’s little cousin in such a big place that is full of energy and raw talent. There are paintings of and by my cousin in South Auckland, and there are public spaces safeguarded by my very own family members, who Dani has given immortality through her works.
Dani taught me how to ride a bike with flat tyres, how to ride a skateboard down a broken drive and how to make potions with flowers from the garden, but I wonder if she knows that she taught me how to simply be myself.
The focus of my new role it to lead the development and implementation of both commercial and community opportunities across the faculty. I look forward to nurturing the next wave of Danielle Merediths at MIT, popping up from different spaces, peaking their heads around corners and waving, doing the fingers, rolling their shoulders to a beat in their heads…
I remember being a young upstart wide eyed and overawed by the New Zealand Book Council. I used to trawl through their website, lovingly scouring the writers files, trying to find a rhythm, a common theme. One thing they seemed to share, the writers at the time (I should make a point here that they are timeless), was a kind of courage that prevailed, regardless of their situation. They wrote through times of confusion and political unrest, they turned to the mountains when the city had no answers, through travel and family – the page was their greatest love, catching them in free fall when nothing else could. Every writer will tell you something different about the page, but I’m sure most of us would agree that it’s part time capsule and part chimera. I personally approach the page as a place to work through ideas and situations with the benefit of limitless space before and behind me, it is a kind of immeasurable expanse that promises revelation, closure and wonder.
I can’t exactly do the feeling justice, having been inducted to these hallowed (viral) halls as of last week. You can check out my brand spanking new bio here: Courtney Sina Meredith Bookcouncil
Another wonderful thing that has only just come to light is the realisation that my play Rushing Dolls and of course yours truly, are acknowledged within this incredible Palgrave Macmillan anthology Contemporary Women Playwrights I’m beyond chuffed and I especially love this quote from Dr Diana Looser: “The world the women inhabit as active, visible participants is “Urbanesia,” Meredith’s neologism for the energetic, urban, polygot culture of contemporary Auckland that brings the island and the city into profound collision, and acts as the crucible of new global identities.”
It’s so easy to write and work and sleep and eat, and to become so used to what is in fact magical and awesome. I’m guilty of forgetting that what I’m creating, or what I’m trying to constantly unearth from within my ancestral bounty, is new and wild and sparkly. I feel super excited to be working on two new books, with a new job starting very soon (I promise I will properly announce it on here when the time is right) and there are a few other wins that I just can’t wait to share with you all. Keep smiling and seeing how wonderful your life is, with fresh eyes.