Poetry from the Pacific
New Zealand writer Courtney Meredith will officially launch her first book of poetry Brown Girls in Bright Red Lipstick this week at the Frankfurt Book Fair. In her writing, the 26-year-old Meredith blends elements from her upbringing in New Zealand’s biggest city Auckland with her vision of “Pacific politique,” a perspective on new Polynesian communities in urban areas.
Meredith’s poetry success didn’t happen overnight. She dropped out of law school after three years to focus on her writing. It was a tough decision, but she credits her grandmother Rita with giving her the self-confidence to pursue her dreams. Since then, Meredith’s work has garnered a lot of praise. Her play Rushing Dolls won multiple awards in New Zealand and will be released by Playmarket in November 2012. She was also the writer in residence for the LiteraturRaum Bleibtreu Berlin 2011.
The Tatau Dance Group, a group of all-male Samoan dance performers, will join Meredith on stage during the Frankfurt Book Fair. The Tatau dancers’ claps and foot stomps will give a percussive background to Meredith’s spoken word performance.
Meredith and the Tatau Dance Group performing together:
As the Frankfurt Book Fair gets underway, Courtney Meredith took a moment to share her thoughts with Magazin Deutschland about poetry, inspiration, and the meaning of home.
What inspired you to begin writing poetry?
Poetry has always been a part of my life, I remember writing my first poem about stars when I was about four or five years old. Throughout my childhood it was a way to scale myself against my environment, writing gave me the power to contemplate my thoughts and dreams. I come from quite a big Samoan family, there was always music in the house, I guess part of the inspiration behind my journey into literature, has always been the gift of placing my loved ones onto the page – to me, the page is eternal.
How would you describe your poems?
Every poem has its own characteristics and features, like siblings, though you can tell they are from the same maker. I enjoy the contrast between what a word seeks to proclaim, and the subjective truth of what the reader or listener interprets by way of its grouping – there is always an unknown magic created between the poem, the poet and the person absorbing the verse. I would describe my poems as little windows into a young, urban, contemporary world with an underlying Pacific politique.
Is there a connection between your poetry and your background growing up in Auckland?
Yes most definitely, I have poems in my book that are set in Auckland and there is that four seasons in one day feeling – to the body of words, you are never sure whether the sky is rising or falling. It has been very important to me to write what I know – it is easy to become complacent with the beauty around you, but the way your mother sings when no one is listening – special moments like that are unique and a good poet is not there to write about it – a good poet is there to listen, and be written by the moment.
What are you most excited about at the Frankfurt Book Fair?
I feel very honoured to be here, it’s very hard to pick one thing – but if I had to I would say, I’m mostly excited about officially launching my book ‚Brown Girls in Bright Red Lipstick‘ with my fantastic publishers from Beatnik – Sally Greer and Ande Kuric. We have all worked very hard on this project, my wonderful parents Kingsley and Kim were heavily involved too, so this book means much more to me than paper and ink – it really is a concentration of my life, and the people who have lovingly contributed to who I am today.
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