Heart­land talk gets ideas pump­ing

Home is where the heart is, New Zealand poet lau­re­ate Vincent O’Sul­li­van ex­plains to Wanaka re­porter Mar­jorie Cook.

Central Otago Mirror - - FRONT PAGE -

‘‘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

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