A.E.: You work as a teacher. Is there a connection between classroom experience and your writing?
I.B.: Not too much. I teach by day and become a writer at night. Once I made that commitment to poetry 7 years ago, I started to become more the poet than the teacher. My position as a teacher responsible for Maori Studies and other involvements in that area certainly has had a significant rub on/rub off effect, as I work between the two predominant cultures in our country. Also, as a European (Pakeha) I move reasonably easily between them. I am not a fluent speaker of Maori, but I would like to think I have an in-depth cultural knowledge that I can draw upon as a teacher for my students.
A.E.: Who are the poets active in New Zealand at the moment?
I.B.: New Zealand poets are probably not that well known overseas at all. A few have crossed borders and can be accessed in good poetry books shops. Allen Curnow, James K Baxter and a Maori poet, Hone Tuwhare have made some international inroads. Also, more contemporaneously, we have poets like Bill Manhire, Fleur Adcock (now living in the UK), Vincent O’Sullivan, CK Stead and perhaps Elizabeth Smither. However, there are many gifted poets I admire in this country, who can be accessed online eg Heather McPherson, Michele Leggott, Murray Edmond, Ian Wedde, James Brown, Anna Jackson, Tusiata Avia and Mark Pirie. These are but a very few of the many young poets actively engaged in enlarging the literary consciousness of this country.
A.E.: Are there any literary festivals around your part of the world, if so how has this helped to create an atmosphere for writing and publishing?
I.B.: Yes, each main city has an arts festival of one kind or another. Auckland and Wellington each have a major Writers and Readers Festivals, which attract some of the best authors from around the globe. These are usually week-long exercises and are extremely popular. As you can imagine, it is a long way for such talent to come to New Zealand, but it does give us a great opportunity to hear and see writers of an international calibre. Of course, Australia is not too far away and Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide have literary festivals which draw on New Zealand poets to participate in their events.
A.E.: When is your collection of poems finally coming out?
I.B.: My first collection should have been launched last July. The publishing schedule was going to plan and then the Editor of Hazard Press had to inform me that Creative New Zealand had come through with insufficient funds for the company to allow printing to go ahead. In other words, poetry was the genre which suffered the cut-back first; sad for poetry to be treated this way. Since then I have put together two new collections. Both are with publishers here in Auckland and in Melbourne and, at the moment, are only at the reviewing stage so it is wait and see.
A.E.: What are publishing possibilities (especially for poetry) like in New Zealand?
I.B.: There are about 7 or 8 very good literary magazines in New Zealand. Again, it is a very small market, so competition is keen for getting published. The magazines vary in production quality, so getting into print is not easy and patience is a necessity. The poetry being published is usually excellent and incredibly diverse and right up there with some of the best internationally. With the exception of the university websites, the same high standard of poetry printed online, cannot always be found in New Zealand. Getting one’s work published as a collection is very difficult. The outlets are few and new poets have to be exceptional to break into this market place, which is limited in its following, compared to some of the other art forms. In spite of this, New Zealand is producing very good artists who are capturing the real essence of this Pacific Island nation, artists who have to be taken seriously as original voices on the world literary stage.
A.E.: Thank you for your precious time.
Sentinel Poetry (Online) #43 - June 2006. ISSN 1479-425X
The International Journal of Poetry & Graphics...since 2002. Editor: Amatoritsero Ede