Whakanuia: Pantograph Picks for Verb Festival 2019

The Pantograph Punch team brings you our top picks from this year’s Verb Festival programme.

Wellington’s favourite indie literature festival returns with fancy new clothes, a punchy new name and a rudely good programme. Running from 6–10 November, Verb Festival includes the classic Saturday evening LitCrawl surrounded by five days’ worth of less frantic occassions, lovingly curated and featuring local, national and international writers.

Pantograph Punch editors Faith Wilson, Ataria Sharman, Hannah Newport-Watson and staff writer Lucinda Bennett bring you our top picks from this year’s programme.

Verb Festival Gala Night: The Essential Struggle
Wednesday 6 November, 6.30–7.30pm
Tickets $20

Get in early for maximum Verb experience. The idea behind the opening event of the festival seems to be to skip the small talk and cut straight to the serious stuff – it’s fun to do that to guests, eh? If nothing else, it’s an excellent opportunity for reconnaisance, since you can catch several of Verb’s international writers and suss out who you’d like to see more of in the days ahead. Sarah Moss (UK), Sinéad Gleeson (Ireland), D. Nandi Odhiambo (Africa/Canada) and Harry Giles (Orkney) appear alongside Nick Ascroft, Eamonn Marra, Rijula Das, Nadine Anne Hura and Duncan Sarkies – all speaking to the question “What is the essential struggle?” –HNW

Pūrākau: Stories for all Time
Saturday 9 November, 12.30pm
Tickets from $15

There is inherent power in traditional storytelling. Here in Aotearoa, the pūrākau of iwi, hapū and whānau provide a narrative for the creation of our planet, the land and skies, flora and fauna. Many characters abound in the traditional kōrero of Māori, including the cheeky Māui, powerful Hine-nui-te-Pō and everlasting love of Papatūānuku and Ranginui.

The collection of stories that is Pūrākau is a retelling of some of our most loved traditional myths and legends by Māori writers. In this panel, the guardians of these reimagined narratives, Patricia Grace, Renée and Apirana Taylor talk to editor Whiti Hereaka. They tell us why we need to keep telling our stories, what they teach us about the times we live in today, and how vividly those characters live in and around us. –AS

Drone by Harry Giles
Friday 8 November, 7.30pm and Saturday 9 November, 7.15pm
Tickets from $25

I’ve written before about what a joy it was to see Harry Josephine Giles perform and counted myself among those hoping Harry might return. Oh hai! Harry is joined by sound artist Neil Simpson and live video artist Jamie Wardrop for a new multimedia show described as a ‘live jam’ of sound, visuals and poetry. Drone is a tragicomic autobiography, told from the unlikely perspective, as the title suggests, of a military drone. So, what would a drone say? I’m expecting something a bit different. –HNW

Ways of Seeing
Saturday 9 November 6–6.45pm (LitCrawl phase 1)
Entry by donation

Visiting Irish writer Sinéad Gleeson’s debut collection of essays Constellations: Reflections from Life (2019), begins and ends with the body. She writes about illness, pregnancy, motherhood and death, but alongside these mortal themes is a recurring preoccupation with other artists and writers and how they made art despite – or perhaps because of – physical pain or illness. It’s no secret that we love writing about art here at the Pantograph Punch, and Gleeson is joined in this session by some of our fave local writers from the intersection of art and literature, Vanessa Crofskey, Mary Macpherson and Megan Dunn, hosted by Rosabel Tan. –HNW

Literary Periods
Saturday 9 November 7.15–8pm (LitCrawl phase 2)
Entry by donation

For many, menstruation is still considered a taboo topic. A “we better not talk about it”, “sweep it under the covers” and “hide that tampon in your pocket as you walk to the wharepakū” kind of kaupapa. And yet, the rise of intersectional feminism and hashtags like #sharemycycle and #menstruationmatters have begun to unravel the stigma. This has led to more on menstruation. More kōrero, more books, short films and movies, like Netflix documentary Period. End of Sentence.

On the back of this uprising, female writers are reintroducing the monthly bleed into their writing. In this panel, mana wahine activist and artist Anna McAllister hosts a discussion with writers Ruby Porter (Attraction), and Anahera Gildea (Poroporoaki to the Lord My God: Weaving the Via Dolorosa) in celebration of menstruation in women’s literature. –AS

How To Read My Poem
Sunday 10 November, 10am
Tickets from $15, includes coffee and treats

Somehow managing to be both playful and profound, US poet Chen Chen can expose racism while eating popcorn. Speaking in a recent interview about his book When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities, he said:

[T]he most exciting growing up involves things we haven’t yet considered, some way of being/making that doesn’t yet exist. Like, a queer Asian American pop star who sells out stadiums and whose main instrument is the xylophone.

I’m looking forward to seeing if Chen is anything like as delightful in person as he is on the page. In this session hosted by Rosabel Tan, he appears alongside some of my favourite local poets – Gregory Kan, Helen Rickerby and Jane Arthur. Each poet will pick one of their poems and tell us the story behind writing it. –HNW

Growing up Wāhine Māori
Sunday 10 November, 11am
Tickets from $15

Um, hello, why would you NOT be into this? Starring Patricia Grace, all time childhood fave and hero (I adapted one of her stories for my 3rd Form drama class – thank the gods I didn’t pursue acting), Tayi Tibble, the poetess prophet of our generation, and curated by our very own Editor Kaupapa Māori, Ataria Sharman, talking about how cool and influential they are (idk if they’ll actually talk about that but it's what I've imagined), and chaired by the wonderful Nadine Anne Hura. –FW

Shared Dinner with Rose and Nina
Sunday 10 November, 6.30pm
Tickets $45, includes dinner

I didn’t only choose this one ‘cos there’s food involved! But also because Nina is one of my fave writers and I’ve heard rad things about Rose's writing and look forward to reading her new book! There’s something sacred to me, in the act of making food and eating together. I believe it’s one of the simplest gestures of generosity, kindness, and an acknowledgment of mutual humanness. This will be a special (and delicious) event. –FW

Check out the full Verb Festival 2019 programme here.

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The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

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