Poet laureate encourages regional writers
New Zealand's Poet Laureate C K Stead has urged southern North Island poets to remain true to themselves, and not adjust their words to please others.
The 84-year-old New Zealand literary legend was the opening speaker at the East-West Poetry Fest hosted at Palmerston North's City Library at the weekend.
He said the opportunity for poets to get together and share their work was rare and important.
Most poets understood they were working in a field where there were more writers than readers, and none could know whether they were writing for eternity, or just for themselves and a few friends.
Writing poetry could not be a commercial venture, he said, and that was what helped to keep it pure and incorruptible.
Only the poet could decide whether their work was any good.
"It is lovely if other people agree with you and disappointing if they do not.
"But if you start trying to adjust your poems to suit what other people are thinking, it becomes unauthentic."
Stead became New Zealand's Poet Laureate in 2015.
His role is to represent New Zealand poets, to promote and advocate for poetry, and carry on writing himself.
He had been commissioned at short notice to write verse for a publication on the Royal New Zealand Navy's upcoming 75th anniversary.
He was also asked to contribute to the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of New Zealand's involvement in World War I.
He had chosen to respond with poetry about a deserter being shot, about a conscientious objector, and about women's involvement – "feathers and tears".
"Things not usually celebrated," he said.
Stead spent Saturday with the poets and supporters from Manawatu, Horowhenua, Hawke's Bay, Wairarapa, Gisborne, Wairoa, Whanganui and Wellington.
Organiser, former Hawke's Bay MP Bill Sutton, helped plan the event from a distance as there was no established poets' group in Palmerston North.