Heartland talk gets ideas pumping
Home is where the heart is, New Zealand poet laureate Vincent O’Sullivan explains to Wanaka reporter Marjorie Cook.
‘‘Where is home?’’ is the question taxing New Zealand poet laureate Vincent O’Sullivan as he prepares for the Aspiring Conversations festival next month.
The Dunedin writer is well qualified to answer. Born in Auckland, O’Sullivan has lived in the Waikato, Wellington and overseas.
He and his wife Helen came south to Dunedin three years ago and are now so completely immersed in the city’s literary culture they do not regret their later-in-life move.
One of the benefits is the easy access to ‘‘compelling places’’ such as Wanaka, and O’Sullivan is looking forward to his first Festival of Colour event.
‘‘I think home has two meanings. First, it is the place you choose or because of your job you are obliged to spend time in and you try to make as pleasant or fulfilling life there as you can. Or, where is the heartland? This matters to you in terms of experience and values. For most people, that goes back to where they spent a large portion of their earlier life . . . Home for me is Dunedin because that’s where I chose to be at this particular stage of life,’’ he said.
He is particularly looking forward to exploring this idea at the festival with writer Kirsty Gunn, who is Kiwi born, lives in London and teaches at Dundee University in Scotland.
O’Sullivan recently won New Zealand’s top poetry book award and loves a bit of irreverence, joking at the ceremony in August ‘‘there are more published poets in New Zealand than there are commissioned officers in New Zealand’s armed forces’’.
He supports the active and growing culture of poetry but what really gets him preaching from the pulpit is the ‘‘human right’’ to literature and culture.
‘‘I can’t imagine many things in a civil country that are not more important than free libraries. There is only so much formal education can do but public libraries give you freedom of access to everything in the world. Suppose New Zealand did not have public libraries. Emotionally and spiritually it would be like having a limb cut off . . . If there is no public library and it is not free you are depriving people from their entitlement, from what I think is a human right of access to culture,’’ he said.
Happy to be home: Poet laureate Vincent O’Sullivan. Who: Vincent O’Sullivan, Poet Laureate What: Aspiring Conversations Festival October 10-12 When: Sunday October 12, 1.30 pm, Lake Wanaka Centre About O’Sullivan: Awards include Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement, 2014 New Zealand Post Book Award for poetry. The former Victoria University lecturer is a Katherine Mansfield ‘‘addict’’. More info: festivalofcolour.co.nz/ aspiring-conversations