Anna has written and edited a number of academic books on topics ranging from Gothic children’s fiction to verse biography in Australia, Canada and New Zealand, and has published six collections of poetry with Auckland University Press.
Anna will spend her eight-week residency working on her latest project;a collection of poetry that revisits the pastoral genre to see what she can make of it today, both in New Zealand and as part of a global culture.
Anna says, ‘I am about half way through the residency and I have taken to keeping strange hours which are in fact almost conventional hours for a writer but not at all like the nine to five hours I generally keep at home whatever combination of lecturing, researching and writing poetry I have going on. Here, I find myself wandering off for a walk by mid-morning, taking a long time over lunch, moving in and out of the shed to the table in the garden, walking again later in the afternoon, then writing into the evening, sometimes finding hours have suddenly passed since I started to edit a line or two.
It is hard to know what exactly will come of all this. I have been writing and editing some fiction, which is not my usual genre, and what form it will take and whether or not I publish it is a bit uncertain. Still, fiction I have written and not published in the past has led to later poetry breakthroughs that have made it worth doing even when there appears to be nothing directly to show for it.
The residency has also given me the time to think a lot about different ways of working between poetry and prose, and time to read a range of different writers experimenting with such possibilities, and I’ve started writing poetry in a somewhat different style that I may or may not be able to sustain but which I’m finding exciting. It can be hard being away from home but having an Auckland base has been terrific for keeping in closer contact with my Auckland publishers at AUP and with Auckland friends and writers, sustaining important friendships and opening up possibilities for new projects and collaborations in the future.
It has been challenging in this really very idyllic setting to think about the responsibility of writers in a time of so many global crises, the situation on Manus Island bringing this sense of crisis very close to home. This is thinking I need to keep doing, but guided by Syrian writer Hisham Matar’s advice that while writers are not free of obligation, the most important obligation for a writer is to write without hindrance because, he says, “You must be surprised by what you write.” So I am working on surprising myself, which is both impossible and, I agree with Matar, the only possible way really to write.’
*Photo by Simon Edmonds