Book sells out at German festival

19:41, Nov 07 2012
POETIC CAUSE: Manukau Institute of Technology head of creative writing Robert Sullivan reflects on his recent success in Germany.

A trip to the famous Frankfurt Book Fair has breathed new life into a collection of poems and inspired its author to write about race relations in Aotearoa.

Manukau Institute of Technology head of creative writing Robert Sullivan was part of the 200-strong Kiwi delegation of writers, artists and dignitaries who exhibited, presented and networked with the literary glitterati at the fair.

"It was a really big deal. It was a great opportunity to market our literature in the world's biggest book fair."

The fair dates back to the 15th century, pulls in more than 7000 exhibitors from 100 countries and attracts a staggering 280,000 visitors each year.

At the centre of the hype was the New Zealand contingent - the 2012 Frankfurt Book Fair guest of honour. That meant massive media coverage for the Kiwis and the chance to secure publishing deals.

"They've got a really great book culture in Germany where they value writing and artists in general," Mr Sullivan says.


He rarely comes across other Kiwi writers at overseas festivals.

"But this time there was 60 or so other New Zealand writers to hang out with. It was cool."

Aside from the camaraderie the highlight for Mr Sullivan was selling out his book of poems Star Waka, which had been translated into German.

"It's got a new lease on life in another language."

He's had works published in Japanese, Russian and German but having an entire book was thrilling.

"That was really choice. It was book of the week and it sold out in three days. I'm not lying."

First published in 1999, and reprinted again in 2011, Star Waka uses themes of an "ancestral waka that binds us".

"As a poet I play with time, fold time. I see the waka as a knife through time, as a symbol that will continue beyond us which is why I think this book is enduring."

Now back at his desk in Otara Mr Sullivan is charting a new course.

"I've started to write about love because I think about race relations but it shouldn't be about race relations - it should be about arohanui."

Manukau Courier