Monday, December 12, 2005


You betcha, kid.
If you're in our hemisphere why not come and join us for a right ol' knees up as we celebrate another year of bringing poetry to the masses. It's our very own brand of gross consumerism which is, after all, what Christmas is all about. If you're able to come you'll have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to purchase back issues of Catalyst, the coolest, most innovative and exciting literary journal in NZ at never-to-be-repeated prices. Poetry is hotter than ever - but stocks won't last! If you are one of the accursedly unlucky who do not live in Christchurch or indeed New Zealand you can make yourself feel better with some long distance poetry therapy - namely SUBSCRIPTION! Yes! We deliver! And it's cheaper than normal too - plus your currency is probably stronger than the kiwi so you'll make on the deal! Wow! We live in a beautiful world. Details are in our profile in the sidebar. Share poetry with a loved one this Christmas. Stuff the kids stockings with something other than playstation or toys - yes you can change the world!
Catalyst. Because you're worth it...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Hitting Our Virtual 'Snooze' Button...

We are recovering from our collective book-launching-hangovers. Thank you to all who made it to Lyttelton for our party and grand unveiling. Maybe I'll file a wee report on it when I can bare to look at the screen on normal brightness... Until then, stay tuned: the next Catalyst Poetry Night will be another big knees-up our last one for 2005 - The Catalyst Christmas Clearance Sale - Poetry at cut prices. We're gonna stuff your stockings...

Thursday, November 24, 2005


The official launch and release of Catalyst volume 4 and Catalyst Spoken Word Series 1 is on Thursday December 1st. The launch party details are:

Catalyst 4 release party
Thursday 1st December, 8pm
Wunderbar, Lyttelton
The launch will feature readings from featured and guest poets and writers from around NZ plus tracks from the very first in Catalyst's Spoken Word Series. Be the first in the world to hear the latest innovation from your ever-lovin' Neoismist Press and She'll Be Right Records.
The CD was produced by Jody Lloyd of She'll Be Right Records and represents a collaboration between writers/speakers and original New Zealand music. It is a bold project that dares to feature music on an equal footing with the spoken word and sets a tough bar for future Spoken Word CDs to achieve. Featured are voices/accents from around the world now resident in Aotearoa and one or two pieces of music by New Zealanders now based overseas. This reflects the great kiwi tradition of immigration/emmigration - the transient nature of modern New Zealanders and the fluidity of citizenship and belonging to this place we call 'home'. Catalyst has always sought to highlight this multicultural reality as well as feature established artists alongside emerging or young talent. The Catalyst Spoken Word Series is true to this form with several recognisable names among a few 'first-timers'. All with unique voices, listen for yourself.
The CD of Catalyst Spoken Word Series comes with your copy of Catalyst volume 4. Copies and subscriptions will be available for sale on the night or email us using the sidebar link.
Details regarding submissions are included in the book or alternatively please check out our profile in the sidebar. Submissions not following the guidelines may automatically be excluded from consideration.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Next Catalyst Poetry Open Mic

Thursday 17th November, 8pm - at the Wunderbar
Please note: The launch party for Catalyst 4 has been pushed back to Thursday December 1.

- a continual source of wonder and awe! Live at the Wunderbar

Bring your writing to share or come, listen, have a few drinks - you know the drill!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Carmen Tafolla - Live at Creation - 10th November - with Poetry in Wartime

Doors Open 7pm
105 Worcester Street, behind Cathedral Square

Direct from the Wellington International Poetry Festival - a one-off screening of powerful new documentary Poetry in Wartime will follow Carmen's performance. Don't miss your only opportunity to see the film that had everyone talking at the International Poetry Festival.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Courage Day - November 10th - Christchurch event

Every year, the New Zealand Society of Authors (NZSA) commemorates writers around the world who have been suppressed, abused, imprisoned or executed.

This year, Courage Day commemorates the 10th anniversary of the execution of Nigerian writer Ken Saro-wira, who was executed along with eight others for campaigning against the devastation of the Niger Delta by international oil companies.

This Courage Day, the Canterbury Branch of NZSA will hold a readings event and get-together on Thursday 10th November at the Madras Cafe Bookshop at 165 Madras Street (opposite the CPIT). The event will commence at 5.30 pm for a 6 pm start and will feature Zimbabwean journalist and human rights activist, Shupayi Mpunga, as keynote speaker, and a series of readings, highlighting Ken Saro-Wira's life and other freedom of expression issues, by local writers.

The NZSA is a non-profit organisation and there is no charge for this event.

So go along, check it out and follow it up with My Heart Speaks a Different Language, the one-woman show by Mexican-American poet Carmen Tafolla at 7pm in Creation. See previous post all about this amazing event.

Next Catalyst Poetry Open Mic

Thursday 17th November, 8pm
at the Wunderbar in Lyttelton. It will also be the launch party for Catalyst volume 4 + Catalyst Spoken Word Series volume 1 CD. Stay tuned for a post all about it...

Friday, October 28, 2005

Next Catalyst Open Mic

8pm Thursday 3rd November - at the Wunderbar

BYO poetry, performance work or prose. Share - Listen - Enjoy
Come on! You know you want to...

Catalyst presents: Carmen Tafolla


Continuing our ongoing commitment to bringing international poets & writers to Christchurch, Catalyst is proud to present the only Christchurch performance of a dramatic one woman theatrical show by internationally renowned Mexican-American writer Dr. Carmen Tafolla.

Thursday 10th November, 7pm
Creation - 105 Worcester Street, (behind The Press building, Cathedral Square)
Price: TBA please contact Creation 03 366 4009

Called by Roots author Alex Haley "a world-class writer," she is the author of five books of poetry, one volume of non-fiction, seven screenplays, and numerous short stories, articles and children's works. Many of her works, she says, are dictated by ancestors "whispering over my shoulder." Her book of poetry, Sonnets to Human Beings, received the First Prize in the Poetry Division of the UCI National Literary Competition. She has most recently been awarded the Art of Peace Award by the President's Peace Commission of St. Mary's University for "writing which contributes to peace, justice and human understanding." Dr. Tafolla is visiting Aotearoa/New Zealand for the Wellington International Poetry Festival Nov. 3-6. We are hosting this one-off performance for the South Island. For more information on her career please visit her website

a dramatic medley of voices from Mexamerica, both poignant and funny, voices ranging from the young child on her first day of school to a black woman janitor to an elderly Mexican-American veteran of World War II. Tafolla will make you laugh and cry and celebrate and dream of a world where we all wear our names and identities proudly. This one-woman show has been presented throughout Europe and the US, Canada and Mexico.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Next Catalyst Open Mic - Thursday 20th October

That's right, BYO poetry, prose, lyrics, rants, etc.

Come, listen, share, enjoy!

8pm at the Wunderbar, Lyttelton this Thursday (20/10/05)
click the Wunderbar link in the sidebar for location details.

As always, copies of Catalyst and other fine Neoismist Press books will be available for purchase including the latest release: Porno Ku XXX

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

All the ways back from October 2003, the cover of Catalyst Volume 1. Cathedral Square in Christchurch, Aotearoa. Complete with Eiffel Tower.

Catalyst Volume 1 cover Posted by Picasa

Part Two - Romerias de Mayo Festival, Cuba 2005

Part Two of a two part report from Aotearoa-based African American poet and world traveller L.E. Scott on his impressions and experiences of Cuba and his participation in Romerias de Mayo Festival in Holguin, Cuba 2005.
Above: Lewis Scott, Marlene Banbury (festival guide), Manuel Garcia Verdecia (poet & UNEAC vice-president)

Above: Children rapping on The Promenade in Havana.


The president of UNEAC’s Holguin branch is the well-known painter Jorge Hidalgo and the two vice-presidents are Eugenio Marron and Manuel Garcia Verdecia. Both are well-known poets, both nationally and internationally.

The UNEAC building was where the poets, writers and painters presented their work over the course of the festival. Most of the artists were under the age of 30 and their minds were wide open to the experiences and ideas of their fellow participants. It should be understood that many of the artists were from countries in the Americas where the government does not take kindly to artists speaking "negatively" about the government or its leaders.

I spent most of my time with the Cuban poets and one in particular, the aforementioned Manuel Garcia Verdecia, professor of Cuban literature and prolific poet/writer and translator. He has translated the work of writers such as Alice Walker and Sylvia Plath into Spanish. We hung out together partly because he read my poems in Spanish at my readings and has translated some of my work for Spanish magazines but also because, as he said and I felt, "we seemed to have known each other from before".

Manuel's love of Cuba and its culture and history is beyond doubt. We did not talk directly of the current political state of Cuba. Rather, we talked of literature in general and in particular he wanted to know about the writers of New Zealand and Australia and what they were writing. He also was aware of some of the history of New Zealand and Australia and wanted to know how it was politically and socially for the indigenous peoples. He enquired as to how the cultures interacted.

Unlike many Cuban writers, Manuel has travelled outside of Cuba to western countries. Cuban writers generally do not have ready access to information about new trends in literature. He pointed out that while Cuban people have a vitality and flow in their daily lives, the poets read their poems in a very formal manner. As he said, Cuban poets have had little exposure to things such as "performance poetry".

As a poet and teacher, Manuel realises that much of the world is not aware that the arts are a strong part of daily life in Cuba and that the government plays a major role in this regard. As a vice-president of UNEAC, his dream is to create an opening for Cuban artists to have a wider audience. To bring that to fruition, he is presently translating the work of ten Cuban poets into English and hopes to have their work published in New Zealand, Australia and elsewhere.


After the festival in Holguin, my friend Manuel Garcia Verdecia gave me a contact name for the UNEAC branch in Havana. I took an overnight bus and headed for the capital city of Cuba. My contact person in Havana was Mr. Alex Pausidis, poet and vice-president of UNEAC’s Havana branch. When we met we had a long talk about poetry and New Zealand and Australian writers. He gave me copies of his poetry and that of the great Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda and another Cuban poet, Tito Junco. Alex also arranged for me to attend various poetry readings around Havana.

Between the poetry readings I visited some of Havana’s sights. First was the Museo de la Revolucion. The museum displays the history and artefacts of The Cuban Revolution and outside one can see the boat in which Fidel Castro sailed from Mexico back to Cuba in 1956. From there I went to the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, which houses Cuban art from the 16th century through to contemporary work. A short distance away was the Capitolio Nacional. This lovely architectural feat is a copy of Washington’s Capitol building but is richer in detail. The building was commissioned by the US-backed dictator Gerardo Machado in 1929 and cost US$17million. I also visited the house of one of Cuba’s national heroes, poet and liberator Jose Marti. And yes, I did end my sightseeing with a pilgrimage to La Bodeguita del Medio for a mojito. La Bodeguita del Medio is one of the bars Hemingway made famous and a mojito is a strong rum-based drink.

During my three weeks in Cuba I met poets, writers, painters and musicians as well as people on the street going about their daily lives. There is much in Cuba that one can see and hear, and there is much that one cannot. I am a person who believes (and history has shown it time and again) that the human spirit is a wondrous seed – and the hand of oppression may slow its growth, but not its flowering.

As I was getting ready to leave Cuba, one of the Mexican poets I had met, Leticia Herrera, said to me, “In October we’re having a festival of poets and writers in Monterey, Mexico – do you think you will be able to come?” I told her, “October is my month!”

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Pictures from Romerias de Mayo Festival, Cuba 2005

Above: Poster about the 5 Cubans jailed in the US on charges of espionage.

Above: (L-R) Alexis Triana (festival president), Lewis Scott, Tatiana Zuniga (festival vice-president)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

ROMERIAS DE MAYO FESTIVAL IN CUBA (A World Festival of Young Artists)

Part One of a two part report from Aotearoa-based African American poet and world traveller L.E. Scott on his impressions and experiences of Cuba and his participation in Romerias de Mayo Festival in Holguin, Cuba 2005.

In October 1962 I was a fifteen year old high school student in the United States of America and even at that young age I had an interest in the world and in politics. We were in the throes of what would become known to the world as “The Cuban Crisis” and that October, our teacher showed us how to hide under our desks should the firestorm come. If someone had told that 15 year old that in 1974 he would leave the United States and go and explore the rest of the world, I’m not sure he would have believed it possible, and especially if he had been told that one of the places he would go would be Cuba.

In October 1994, after living in Aotearoa New Zealand for many years, I celebrated becoming a New Zealand citizen. As a curious child of 15 I hadn’t even been aware that there was such a thing as dual citizenship that would open doors to other countries. But here I am.

In October 2004, the annual Gwendolyn Brooks Writers’ Conference at Chicago State University celebrated the artistry and contribution of the African American poet Amiri Baraka. I had recently written a profile on Baraka for the magazine JAAM and at the conference I had an opportunity to give him a copy of this magazine. During our conversation we spoke, among other things, about his time in Cuba in the late 1960s and he urged me to go there if I got the chance. I recalled an article he had written about that time, in which he related how some of the Cuban writers had told him to stop referring to the United States as “America”, given that it was just one of the countries in North America.


Word of mouth is a powerful vehicle. By the time I returned to New Zealand from that conference, the word was out among the writing community and waiting for me at home was a contact name for Cuba.

Ms Tatiana Zuniga, vice-president of the Romerias de Mayo Festival in Holguin, Cuba was the name. After a number of emails back and forth, I received one from Tatiana which read: “I would like to invite you to attend the Romerias de Mayo Festival – you will read your poetry at the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba”. I would learn later that the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC) was created by the poet Nicolas Guillen shortly after the Cuban Revolution in 1959. The aim of UNEAC was, and is, “to preserve social justice and national independence and to promote the ongoing cultural, political and social ideas of the Cuban artists”.
On April 30th I flew from Aotearoa/New Zealand direct to Cuba. When I say direct, I mean from Auckland, New Zealand to Los Angeles, USA, to Vancouver, Canada, and then to Havana, Cuba. There are no flights from the United States to Cuba because of the US embargo.

On arrival in Havana I was met by a festival committee member. The next day I joined a group of other festival participants and flew from Havana to Holguin in an old propeller-driven Soviet aircraft. The one-and-a-half hour flight in this chartered aircraft, on which no safety briefing was given, left one believing that the idea of a God was not a bad one.

Holguin is the fourth largest city in Cuba and many thousands of people had gathered there from all over Cuba and the rest of the world for the festival. The opening address was given by the President of the Festival, Mr Alexis Triana, standing on a balcony high above the crowd and speaking in a Castro-style manner. He welcomed artists and visitors to the city of Holguin and then declared the city open for the festivities.

This annual festival was created twelve years ago and its focus has always been on young artists, with an underlying aim to bring them into contact with older artists to assist their development. Though this festival is open to the world, most of the artists are from the Americas. The festival is always held in Holguin and each year young artists from a particular country are highlighted. This year it was the poets, writers, painters, dancers and people of the theatre from Mexico. In 2006 it will be the artists from Venezuela. The Romerias de Mayo Festival is fully funded by the Cuban government.


Cuba is one of the last remaining socialist states and Fidel Castro has been in power since 1959 when the former US-backed dictator Batista was overthrown. Everything in Cuba is controlled by the state and people are aware that loose tongues can be a danger to well-being. The daily lives and movements of Cubans are closely watched. In each neighbourhood, every four or five blocks, there is an “appointed person” whose job it is to make sure his area runs without problems. Cubans cynically refer to this person as “the watcher”.

As a result of the US embargo on Cuba since the 1960s and the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1980s (the Soviets having supported Cuba in many ways including trade and aid), the country is in dire need. There is a shortage of everything and everything is rationed. Long queues are a daily reality. The Cuban people say, very quietly, that they face not only the embargo from the US but also an embargo within Cuba.

It is perhaps the older Cubans who worry most about what will come “after he is gone”. The young, they point out, will have a better chance to deal with whatever fire comes next. Throughout Cuba the government has posted photographs of the five Cubans imprisoned in the United States on charges of conspiracy to commit espionage. The Cuban government holds that these “Cuban heroes” went to infiltrate the large Cuban community in Florida to prevent acts of terrorism on Cuba from that community, which is widely anti-Castro. And so the historical dance of antagonism between the US and Castro just keeps swinging to the same tune.


From May 2nd Holguin was jumping. There were thousands of people in the streets and music, street theatre, dancing and poetry readings were taking place all over the city. On my arrival, Tatiana Zuniga (who I would come to know over the next week as a warm and beautiful human being) had arranged a personal guide for me for the course of the festival.

Ms Marlene Banbury, school teacher and aide to the festival committee, was my guide and what a gift she was. Marlene was born in Holguin of Jamaican parents (as she says, “some fifty years ago”). It was Marlene’s job to get me to my readings and discussions. And when she discovered that I could not dance, she made it her mission to get me to learn the Salsa before I left Cuba. After the day’s events she had my nights set up for listening to Cuban bands at Casa de la Troua (a club named after one of Cuba’s greatest musicians) and a space on the dance-floor reserved! Marlene says that when she met her husband, some 12 years ago, the first thing she wanted to know was whether he could dance. She told him, “I don’t care if your mother and father think I’m the best woman you will ever meet; if you can’t dance, I’m moving on!”

In Marlene’s company I learned a lot about daily life in Cuba. In spite of all the hardships that Cubans face, we walked the streets and alley-ways of Holguin enjoying a city full of festivity and life. And my guide, a woman who hadn’t much, had a beautiful spirit that was priceless. We became friends.

To be continued...

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Neoismist Press unleash XXX Porno Ku - a little hard something for your pocket

It's haiku but not as you know it. As featured in Catalyst 3 - Porno Ku has been rounded up and committed to its own little cell in the form of a handy wee pocket book. Neoismist Press who publish Catalyst decided the work of Dickey Woodside, Sheila Shorthand and Jock Helldonger deserved to be locked up "not only for amusement." It's been given the treatment, complete with illustrations by Elizabeth Davidson and is, in the words of Sheila Shorthand, "a little hard something for your pocket."

The book is being launched as part of Christchurch's Four Square Festival at Creation arts space with music from Le Mot Cafe, visuals from The Neoismists show Fears & Fetishes and a glass of wine or three.

It is not known whether the authors who are US based will be in attendance at the launch. Neoismist Press say the book is likely to retail for $10 a copy. Advance orders can be sent to Neoismist Press, P.O. Box 3083 Christchurch, New Zealand.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Poetry Idol Grand Final

... and as the dust settled, only one remained standing... and the winner, the grand champion, the Catalyst Poetry Idol 2005 is...

But let's start at the beginning. Over 5 weeks we saw some talented, gutsy poets put to the sword. Well, as put to the sword as it gets in Aotearoa, namely "would you mind maybe standing over here while I stick this sword into you, mate, if you don't mind, sorry mate, you don't have to..." - you get the picture.

That brought us to Thursday 25th of August and Grand Final night, live at the Wunderbar in Lyttelton. The five finalists were:

A.J. Coyle
Cris Fulton
Lucette Hindin
Dylan Kemp
Derek Laver

The tension built as the start was delayed by a late arriving poet but eventually the games could begin as host Doc Drumheller announced the format for the evening. Each poet would perform two sets of three poems, the audience would score both sets out of 30 - 10 points per poem. The running order would be drawn out of a hat and reversed for the second set. The prizes were unveiled:
1st: Catalyst Poetry Idol 2005 receives a $50 bar tab + $50 grocery voucher courtesy of Super Value Lyttelton.
2nd: receives $20 bar tab + $20 grocery voucher courtesy of Super Value Lyttelton.
3rd: receives a bottle of bubbly courtesy of the Wunderbar.
Poetry Idol will also get a feature on this very website including one or two poems and Doc announced a surprise for all finalists: a years subscription to Catalyst and a poem to be included in the print journal. Not too shabby eh?

The contenders then partook of the traditional Catalyst salute of a shot of Jagermeister and gird their loins for battle...

As you'd expect it was as if all the finalists had brought their 'A-game' . At the break it was hard to pick who the audience most appreciated - we were in for the long haul. At the end of the second set it fell to recently returned Catalyst co-host Unkle Travelling Kez to scrutineer and tally the scorecards.

Alas there could be only one Poetry Idol and as the dust settled... the results were:

Catalyst Poetry Idol 2005: Cris Fulton

2nd place: Dylan Kemp

3rd place: Lucette Hindin

Stay tuned for an upcoming feature on our Poetry Idol Chris Fulton on this very website and a feature section in Catalyst 4 with our five finalists.

Very special thanks from Catalyst go to
Peter Jackson and Super Value Lyttelton
and our buddies Jason and Tony at the Wunderbar in Lyttelton
for their staunch support of poetry!

Friday, July 15, 2005

Catalyst Poetry Idol - Round 1 Thurs 21st July 8pm, Wunderbar, Lyttelton

Our annual performance poetry competition gets a facelift and a shot of adrenalin in the ass.

WANTED: Poets with a stout heart, fierce, fearless and, where appropriate, balls of steel...
ALSO WANTED: Audience - must be prepared to judge, harsh, fair with a good ear and a light heart!

Forget Stars in Their Eyes, forget glorified karaoke singers on the TV.
This is the real thing. Performance poetry for keeps. Blood on the microphone, tears on the page and stage. Reputations won and lost. Just you, your words... and an audience of judges. You better step up. Or step off. Catalyst presents "Catalyst Poetry Idol" - the audience is the judge - be prepared to stimulate, provoke, entertain or move. Literally.

It's all just fun n' games (until someone loses an i)

To promote the launch of our first CD of spoken word to accompany Catalyst 4, once again we're throwing poets to the lions. There will be five heats over five weeks with fabulous prizes and an Idol Grand Final with the 5 heat winners to find the Catalyst Poetry Idol for 2005. (Kinda like a poet laureate but with dry ice and sequins).

The first ten poets to register for each heat will be eligible to compete in Catalyst Poetry Idol, registration starts at 8pm. There will also be an Open Mic for poets who miss out on registration. All judging will be done by the audience.

1st Prize: $50 bar tab and a track on the spoken word CD with Catalyst 4
2nd Prize: $20 bar tab
3rd Prize: Mystery Prizes.

The Winners of each heat will go through to the Grand Final (even more fabulous prizes TBC)

5 Preliminary Heats: All at Wunderbar, Lyttelton

Thursday July 21st 8pm
Thursday July 28th 8pm
Thursday August 4th 8pm
Thursday August 11th 8pm
Thursday August 18th 8pm

Idol Grand Final:
Thursday August 25th 8pm Wunderbar
featuring the 5 winners of the heats, competing for the coveted title of Catalyst Poetry Idol.

Come along, have a drink, support your local poets and help choose the Idol! Entry is FREE.
Stay tuned right here for weekly results and updates as New Zealand's most significant Idol competition ever, kicks (ass) off.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Poetry in Motion

A New Zealand Poet in the U.S.A

by Ron Riddell.

I will begin this poetic travelogue/commentary with the handy catch-phrase, “Poetry in Motion,” which is also the name given to a special annual poetic series of events in the U.S., timed to coincide with the advent of National Poetry Month. This week I have had the honour of participating in the Los Angeles Poetry in Motion event, which featured a dozen leading poets from Los Angeles and other parts of California.

I have been on the road for just a few weeks, having left New Zealand on the 11th of April, bound for the 13th Austin International Poetry Festival, deep in the heart of Texas. Austin is in fact the state capital of Texas and is renown for its cultural life and burgeoning population, which has more than quadrupled in the last forty years. The current population stands at little less than a million, the new airport is more spacious and well-organised than LA International and everywhere the convoluted spirals of new freeway systems are sprouting up.

The pace of life in contemporary urban U.S.A. is extreme. This includes the poetic scene. Hurtling along interminable motorways from one event to another at the AIPF,( where there were some 200 poets participating), I began to get the speed wobbles. Fortunately, none of my wheels came off. At least none that I noticed, last time I checked.

In the U.S. nowadays, the national flag is omni-present. They wave at you from every freeway, street corner and from outside every second house. “United We Stand,” reads a common accompanying slogan.

“Slamming” and poetry-slam contests are also very popular. The best attended event at the AIPF, 2005 was the Slam Contest held on Saturday evening, 16th of April at the Ruta Maya Café, which also acted as the headquarters for the festival. The style which is favoured is the high-energy, testosterone-boosted Nyorican rap style. There was a sameness and lack of variation in tone which created an often aggressive, sex-obsessed monotony at this and similar-styled events. Two of the most balanced poet-performers in this area were Tim Gibbard from the U.K. and Jive Poetic from New York.

Leading the field of guest poets was the Texas-based, Naomi Shihab Nye, who is of Palestinian-U.S. parentage. She is a distinguished local writer and teacher who works in close association with poets such as the internationally-renown, Robert Bly. Her work had a range and resonance which was matched by a number of the international poets including: Agnes Meadows (England), Nii Parkes (Ghana), Carmen Tafolla (Mexico-U.S.), Zara Houshmand (Iran-U.S.) and the wonderful Segun Akinlolu (Nigeria-Canada).

It was a great honour to represent Aotearoa-New Zealand at The Austin International Poetry Festival and to share poetically with a fine selection of international poets and also, of course, the people of Austin. The Austin cultural community is friendly, open and welcoming of antipodeans. Some even know where New Zealand is. Isn’t that the place where The Lord of the Rings comes from? I nod my head. O.K. Yes, I say, that’s it: the land that Peter Jackson made!

On the opening night at The Ruta Maya Café, I gave a little speech. I told the assembly of the faithful that I believed in the several powers of poetry. Some looked surprised, others turned away. The coffee was good and the roasters were whirring. I did not get to finish my little homily on poesy. The rappers and slammers were waiting in the wings, honing up on their invectives. I continued to recite some articles of faith:
“Some people back home in New Zealand asked me why I was coming here. One reason that came readily to mind, was my wish to contribute in an act of solidarity, of common purpose and belief. Through this kind of linking of hands, I believe we can strengthen our common purposes; we can achieve a greater honouring of poets and poetry; of ourselves, as human beings of peace, goodwill, compassion and understanding.”

For some months prior to my arrival in Austin, I had been exchanging emails with AIPF Chairman, Dr. Byron Kocen. A rapport had already begun to develop between The Wellington International Festival and the AIPF. The level of synergy became clearer when I read the new 2005 Mission Statement for the AIPF. It reads as follows:

“Austin Poets International promotes literary excellence by connecting poets from Austin and around the around. We provide a dynamic, inclusive environment that celebrates a passion for language, cultural diversity and self-expression. Our organization unites writers with the broadest audience in a sharing of ideas that affirms our humanity.”

Dr. Kocen continues in his words of introduction to the festival programme: “This year with events swirling out of control in so many parts of our planet, it is more important to make our voices (those of the poets) even more eloquent. I hope this festival affords all of us the opportunity to renew friendships and affirm our humanity with open hearts.” Byron Kocen is a man of vision. He firmly believes that poetry can be used as a medium for peace and a means of healing. How are such ideals to be realized in the context of a poetry festival, in particular to an inclusive, open-to-all festival like the AIPF?

This is the sort of critical question that most contemporary international poetry festivals are preoccupied with – not in any obscure academic sense but in the nitty-gritty day to day processes with are involved in putting such large-scale projects together. One of the key issues implicit in this quest, is the locating of a vibrant, connected and intelligent audience. It is generally accepted that no poetry festival in the world can come close to the achievement of The Medellin International Poetry Festival, in this regard. Medellin sets a benchmark which other festivals can learn from.

However, it is important to remember that each international poetry festival in the world has something unique to offer. There is a sharing experience and out of that a learning from the way in which other people do things. If we have the openness, patience and humility to learn, then we have a good chance of progressing to the next step, which is the application of those lessons, the integration and adaption of them into our programmes and environments. Maybe, this is one area where principles of peace may be applied? Peaceful dialogue and respectful co-creation; instead of unpeaceful dialogue and disrespectful co-destruction.

The twin themes for The 3rd Wellington International Poetry Fesival, 3-7 November, 2005 ( are Disarmament and Peaceful Dialogue. Most events are free and all are held in or nearby the beautiful New Zealand capital city of Wellington. I urge all those who are attending, especially the participating poets, to reflect on these themes; to meditate on the meaning of disarmament and peaceful dialogue. In those countries where wars still continue, many people lose their lives by expressing themselves verbally or in print. For many of us, especially in Western countries, this may be hard to comprehend. It is only by making an effort to understand, that we can begin to approach the healing processes and peaceful purposes which lie at the heart of poetic art and craft.

It was a special privilege for me to attend the 13th Austin International Poetry Festival in Austin, Texas. I learned a great deal, I made new friends, I crossed new thresholds and I shared a lot with other writers, musicians and festival workers. Congratulations and thanks to all those who contributed towards making the 2005 AIPF such a great success. My only query is this: why was President Bush not on hand to welcome the poets? Last year in Venezuela, for The Inaugural International Poetry Festival in Caracas, President Chavez not only welcomed each participating poet but put extra time aside to speak with all the international poets individually. Again, Latin America shows the lead, in the honouring of poets and poetry. Next year in Austin with Mr. And Mrs. Bush? Por qué no? Why not?

Ron Riddell,
Los Angeles, U.S.A., 7 May, 2005–Wellington, N.Z., 23 June, 2005.

Catalyst open mic poetry night

Tuesday July 5th, 8pm Wunderbar Lyttelton

Come and share your words with other writers.

Read from your own work, the words of others, or just come and have a pint and a listen.

Looking for directions to the Wunderbar? Go to

Submissions for Catalyst

Submissions are currently being considered for Catalyst 4.

Please send: poetry, prose, fiction, excerpts from scripts (film, theatre etc.), experimental works, song lyrics etc. plus a brief contributors note and self-addressed envelope (to ensure that you get a reply) to: Doc Drumheller, Catalyst, PO Box 3083 Christchurch.For further information please email

Catalyst presents Ron Riddell

Catalyst Presents:

Ron Riddell
Celebrating the launch of his new book:
'Leaves Of Light', published in LA by Caza De Poesia.

Three events over three days:

1. Thursday July 7th, 8pm, at Creation (105 Worcester Street, Christchurch).

"The Place and the Power of Poetry in Latin America"

A presentation by Ron Riddell with images and readings from his work, accompanied by readings from five Christchurch Poets.

2. Friday, July 8th, 9pm. at Wunderbar, Lyttelton
Party extravaganza with Ron reading excerpts from his work accompanied by Le Mot Cafe and readings from five Lyttelton Poets

3. Saturday July 9th, 11am. Madras Café Books
Ron reading from his new book, a book signing and discussion at Madras café books.

Copies of Leaves Of Light will be available for sale at the various venues.

Leaves of Light, is the 15th collection of poetry by the internationally celebrated N.Z. poet Ron Riddell. Published in June 2005 in Los Angeles, U.S.A., by Caza de Poesia, it is the third bi-lingual volume (English/Spanish) to be published by the poet. The poems were written in N.Z. and Latin America between 2000 and 2004. Leaves of Light has been awarded The House of Poetry International Award (U.S.A.) for 2005.

Leaves of Light is a fresh, lively and lyrical collection of poems, which celebrates the natural world. It also deals with themes of oppression and exile; encouraging a peaceful approach to such human challenges and injustices. With tones of humour, compassion and warmth, the poems celebrate human diversity and sharing.

Ron Riddell is founder and director of The Wellington International Poetry Festival in Wellington, New Zealand. He and his Colombian wife, Saray Torres, organize annually this important new festival on the international cultural scene. In 2004 he was finalist in The Wellingtonian of the Year Awards. In 2005, Riddell has participated in The Austin International Poetry Festival, Texas, U.S.A., El Encuentro Internacional de Poetas en El Salvador and the United States National Poetry Month, in Los Angeles, featuring in events such as The Metro Poetry in Motion and the Poetry Showcase at the Alex Haleigh Gallery in Gardena.

Ron Riddell has previously published two very popular bi-lingual collections of poetry, El Milagro de Medellin, Medellin, Colombia, 2002 and Spirit Songs, Medellin, Colombia, 2004. The latter was launched in Los Angeles in February, 2004 at the Residence of The New Zealand Consulate General, Los Angeles.

Ron Riddell, 70 Wilkie Crescent, Naenae, Wellington, N.Z.
Phone: 577 17 47

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Catalyst presents...

Stephen Oliver, reading from his forthcoming book: "Either Side The Horizon", due out September from Titus Books.

Copies of Ballads, Satire & Salt by Stephen Oliver will be available for sale at the venue.

Tuesday, June 14th, 8pm,Wunderbar, Lyttelton, $5 cover charge.

Stephen Oliver is the author of twelve titles of poetry, including: Night of Warehouses: Poems 1978-2000, HeadworX Publishers, 2001. Lived in Paris, Vienna, London, San Francisco, Greece and Israel.

Signed on with the radio ship, ‘The Voice of Peace’ broadcasting in the Mediterranean out of Jaffa. Freelanced as production voice, newsreader, announcer, voice actor, journalist, radio producer, copy and features writer. Poems widely represented in New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, USA, UK, South Africa, Canada, etc.

Recently published, Deadly Pollen, a poetry chapbook, Word Riot Press, 2003, and, Ballads, Satire & Salt – A Book of Diversions, Greywacke Press, Sydney, 2003. Three of his books, Unmanned, Night of Warehouses: Poems 1978-2000, Deadly Pollen are freely available as e-books from Project Gutenberg, Oxford Text Archive, and, Online Books Page / University of Pennsylvania. NB: three titles are lodged with the Poets’ House NY. Stephen is a trans Tasman poet and writer who lives in Sydney. Forthcoming: A new collection of poetry titled: Either Side The Horizon, Titus Books, New Zealand, 2005.

Books published

Henwise (1975), & Interviews (1978), Autumn Songs (1978), Letter To James. K. Baxter (1980), Earthbound Mirrors (1984), Guardians, Not Angels (1993), Islands of Wilderness - A Romance (1996), Election Year Blues (1999), Unmanned (1999). Night of Warehouses: Poems 1978-2000 (2001), Deadly Pollen (2003), Ballads, Satire & Salt - A Book of Diversions (2003), Either Side The Horizon (2005).

Friday, May 27, 2005

Next Catalyst Reading

The next Catalyst poetry evening is on: Tuesday June 7 at the Wunderbar - a Lyttelton institution - an evening of poetry, prose and experimental writing hosted by Catalyst.

Spoken word and literary hijinks, open mic & open minds in the back room at the Wunderbar in Lyttelton. Looking for directions to the Wunderbar? Go to

The third volume of Catalyst has just been published. Catalyst is a literary journal, originally conceived to create a forum for writers in Canterbury, NZ that has rapidly grown to encompass international writing by established and new writers. Catalyst 3 will be on sale at all good independent bookstores. If you can't buy a copy near you then consider subscribing, it's cheaper and you get your copy before the rest of the world. Two issues, costs only NZ$30 within New Zealand or NZ$40 international. Email


Please send: poetry, prose, fiction, excerpts from scripts (film, theatre etc.), experimental works, song lyrics etc. plus a brief contributors note and self-addressed envelope (to ensure that you get a reply) to: Doc Drumheller, Catalyst, PO Box 3083 Christchurch.

For further information please email