The Treasury Interviews: Chris interviews Greg O’Connell


About my self:  My name is Chris Girven and I was born in Wadestown New Zealand. My dad was born in New Jersey U.S.A and my mum in Essex England. When I was young we moved to Khandallah and I now attend Khandallah School as a Year 6 student. I love Wellington and the people here.

My passions are of course writing and acting. Last year my passion for writing flourished and I just love the way I can express my feelings from my mind through the pencil and onto the page. I started loving acting since I was a toddler and I still love it to this day.

As for school it’s a thumbs up from me. I love school. I think of it as a way to learn new things and meet new people. My favourite subjects are writing and art.

 Greg O’Connell


Greg O'Connell Poet

Greg grew up in Oamaru New Zealand. For the first few years of his life he lived in a house that his dad built. His family has five members, two brothers and five sisters. When Greg was young he went to a Catholic primary school and it was around this time that he found the enjoyment of writing poetry.

Greg was brought up by his mum and dad. His parents were the type of people that liked a family with a strong focus. As he grew up, his passion for writing stuck with him. His big breakthrough was his first published poem in 2008 in a school journal. After that he published two more poems in School Journals and it was then that he realized that he was a true poet.


The Interview:

When you write, how does it make you feel?

When I write a poem it makes me feel exhilarated, a deep excitement at being immersed in the art of shaping language. This intense, quietly joyful feeling is accompanied by many subtler feelings too. I can feel curious, determined, surprised, moved, amused, and satisfied. The strongest feeling, though, is focused exhilaration.


When you were young how did you decide that you wanted to be a writer?

I didn’t. Then something amazing happened. The School Journal published four of my poems in a row. I began to feel that I had something to offer the world as a poet. I was 43, and I had found my true calling.


Have you always loved writing?

Yes, but there was a big problem. As a young person I was a chronic writing perfectionist, which turned the whole process into a form of self-torment. I idolised many writers but lacked confidence in the worth of my own words. As an adult, I discovered that many people delighted in my poems. So I finally allowed myself to value and fully enjoy my writing. It is now pure pleasure.


What inspires you to write?

Sometimes an experience. For example, observing scooter-users on their way to school. Sometimes an object, such as my favourite pair of boots. Sometimes emotions, such as tenderness, awe, and gratitude. Sometimes a language feature such as a metaphor, a pun, or an original phrase. As a performance poet, often I’m inspired by the impact of putting a poem into action and entertaining an audience.


What message do you want people to get from your writing?

Poetry is rich language that makes our lives more enjoyable and meaningful.


If you had to write another type of writing what would it be?

There are many, many types of poetry and I really enjoy exploring their various possibilities. Right now, I’m formatting a narrative rhyming poem into a picture book manuscript.


What advice have you got for aspiring young writers like myself?

One: “Enjoy your words!”

Two: Don’t get hung up trying to write the ‘perfect’ poem. Just as there is no definitive ‘perfect’ person but, rather, many remarkable individuals with unique perspectives and personalities, so it is with poems. Let each of your poems be an individual, with its own particular strengths and qualities. Only when I learned this lesson did my writing start to fly.


Thanks for the thoughtful questions Chris and the thoughtful answers Greg. Greg has five poems in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children that are very playful and fun to read. And one that is a little more serious and moving.

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