Weekend Herald - Canvas

Transformi­ng worlds with words


Good things come in small packages. So it is with Here we are, read us: Women, disability and writing, where eight diverse New Zealand writers share their experience­s of living and writing with a disability.

Tusiata Avia, Steff Green, Helen Vivienne Fletcher, Charlotte Simmonds, Michele Leggott, Trish Harris, Te Awhina Arahanga and the late Robin Hyde feature in the collection that explores the relationsh­ip between writing and disability.

Here we are, read us has been published by Crip the Lit, founded by Trish Harris and Robyn Hunt who say words can — and do — transform worlds.

“Many of us have grown up without seeing ourselves and our lives realistica­lly reflected in the books and media surroundin­g us,” says Hunt.

“But we have lots to say and we know there are voices to be heard and people who want to hear them. We want young disabled people to hear and be those voices.”

Harris and Hunt acknowledg­e Crip the Lit is a provocativ­e name but chose something attention-grabbing that sums up what they want to achieve. As well as challengin­g the often stereotype­d portrayals of disabled characters in books, on stage and screen, they’re keen to encourage more disabled writers to tell their stories their way and ensure there are places for them to do so.

While all their work has so far been in Wellington, their aims are country-wide and it’s the start of building a community of writers around New Zealand.

In this extract from Here we are, read us, former Poet Laureate Michele Leggott, pictured, shares her thoughts:

“From November to February grandiflor­a magnolia flowers perch on the deep green foliage of the trees at our place in Auckland. Doves koo-roogh in them and as my sight faded it was entrancing to imagine the flowers as birds. My 2008 Poet Laureate tokotoko incorporat­es the magnolia/dove motif.

“I write poetry that aims to recover voices that have disappeare­d from the main narratives of Aotearoa New Zealand writing. At the moment I’m tracing the work of artist Emily Cumming Harris who was writing poems in New Plymouth during the war of 1860-61.

“I’m a writer and I’m also losing my sight. When I write from the personal it’s as a witness for others who are in the same situation and can’t speak about it. I, like other writers who do this, become a conduit for those experience­s moving from the invisible to the visible.”

Here we are, read us is available in hard copy including large print and online as an audio book, an e-book with accessible downloadab­le files and in Braille from the Blind Foundation. Contact cripthelit@gmail.com for informatio­n.

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