trout [ 8 ] September 2000
I was lucky enough to contribute to the 23rd annual conference of the
Association for the Study of New English Literatures (ASNEL) in Aachen,
Germany and Lieges, Belgium. I also gave poetry readings in Aachen,
and the University of Frankfurt. My thanks go to the conference organisers,
Peter Marsden of Aachen University of Technology, and Geoff Davis from
a dazzling array of academic presentations on the literatures of Africa,
the Carribbean, and Oceania, and a very large number of writers were
present from around the world. One highlight for me was meeting the
South African contingent, especially hearing the works of Don Mattera
and Leseko Rampolokeng. Mattera writes love poetry partly to avoid an
expectation of protest poetry in his part of the world, while Rampolokeng
concentrates on rap style lyrics in order to reach his younger generation.
Jack Mapanje, exiled in Great Britain from Malawi, and Lindsey Collen from Mauritius, took part with me on a human rights panel which examined literature and human rights. I was honoured to be included as unlike them I have not directly experienced overt oppression in my life. Mapanje was imprisoned for references in his poetry to the Malawian dictator, while a close friend of Collen was murdered for his views.
concentrated on historical injustices to the Maori people, and how they
translate into modern life in Aotearoa / New Zealand. I was heartened
by the presence of Powhiri Rika-Heke, from Nga Puhi (my tribe) in Aotearoa.
Someone to speak Maori with! It felt very special to have her there
-- real companionship in a completely different culture.
Of course it was great to meet up with the Australians, and I struck up a friendship with a very fine Australian poet, Andrew Sant. I was also very pleased to be introduced to the work of Peter Goldsworthy. Another new mate, Bernard Cohen, who has won Australia's Vogel fiction award, has some work in this issue of Trout.
There were other fantastic writers. Karen King-Aribisala from Nigeria who sings like an angel, and did so on the opening night reading (fortunately for my nerves she read after me), and Lawrence Scott from Trinidad (ditto -- he sang too!).
thrust of the conference was a crisis in the use of the term post-colonial.
For colonized peoples this crisis is almost amusing. Maori people continue
to be colonized, so the term ought to be 'neo-colonial' or some such.
Lee Maracle, of Stoh:lo First Nation, was very supportive when I was
attempting to describe the experience for Maori on the
of the ideas I picked up were from my fellow writers. The idea of privileging
academic discourse with philosophy and theory for instance. Indian tradition
makes no such distinction between poetry and philosophy, which struck
me that of course Maori tradition is very similar! So watch this space.
conference I spent time in Italy, checking out the Uffizi in Florence
(the Botticelli room is a big wow, and an oh), dining with friends on
the banks of the Arno, visiting the splendours of Rome, and having a
very enjoyable lunch at the home of another conference delegate, staying
briefly in Ravenna to gaze at the mosaics, especially Galla Placida's
In France I stayed in Menton with the Katherine Mansfield Fellow, Stephanie Johnson, her partner Tim Woodhouse, and their three children, and just marvelled at the generous necessity of having this literary Shangri La for writers to aspire to (Creative NZ have just set up a residency in Berlin as well).
I had just enough time to buy a burger in Paris, and whoosh through
the chunnel which slows to a chug on the English side, to stay with
a very good mate in London, who showed me all the sights only a close
friend could. I even had time to visit my grandfather's birthplace in
the return home I stayed with Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, who has poetry
in this issue, at Cape Croker reservation which is in the most beautiful
beautiful part of the world.
enjoy this Trout!
2000 Trout &