Former Timaru woman wins coveted Arts Fellowship

Former Timaru woman and poet Rhian Gallagher won the University of Otago's Robert Burns Fellowship for 2018.
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Former Timaru woman and poet Rhian Gallagher won the University of Otago's Robert Burns Fellowship for 2018.

A former Timaru woman is honoured to have won one of the University of Otago's five sought after Arts Fellowships for 2018. 

Poet Rhian Gallagher, now based in Dunedin, grew up in Normanby, just south of Timaru, and attended Mercy College, which later became Roncalli College. 

The University of Otago announced on Wednesday she was the Robert Burns Fellow for 2018. 

Rhian Gallagher at the Timaru Piazza in 2005, not long after returning from London.
RON LINDSAY/STUFF

Rhian Gallagher at the Timaru Piazza in 2005, not long after returning from London.

"It's a real honour," Gallagher said.

Some of the fellowship's previous recipients, such as Janet Frame, James K Baxter and Hone Tuwhare, were people Gallagher admired. 

The fellowship was the only one in New Zealand which gave writers a full year to write and be paid while doing so, she said. 

"From a poet's perspective, there's not many opportunities like that." 

She said the attention poetry was able to give to individual words was part of what she liked about the style of writing. 

"The close attention to language that comes with poetry, it tends you slow you down."

Readers could not rush through a poem in the same way they might a piece of prose, she said. 

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"It's always been a form that's sort of spoken to me. I guess it has something with my own relationship to language." 

Gallagher spent 18 years living in London before returning to New Zealand in 2005. 

She has lived in Dunedin for about five years, and was enjoying outdoor activities like tramping.

"It's sort of the opposite of my time in London ... I spend a lot more time in the environment than I have before in my life.

"I go into the environment, not really to escape, but to be woken up." 

Gallagher said the fellowship entails a salary for the year, an office within the English Department on the University of Otago's Dunedin campus, and access to the university's "amazing libraries".

The Frances Hodgkins Fellowship went to artist Louise Menzies, the Mozart Fellow went to musician Dylan Lardelli, the Caroline Plummer Fellow in Community Dance went to Matthew Smith and the University of Otago College of Education/Creative New Zealand Children's Writer in Residence went to author Raymond Huber.

 

 - Stuff

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