The interviewers are all in Room 8 at Adventure School in Porirua and are aged between 8 and 9. They are in the Lions Reading Group.
Thomas Nicholson lives in Whitby, Wellington with two kittens and a little brother. He goes to Adventure School. He likes watching movies, especially How To Train Your Dragon 2.
Connor Miller lives in Wellington, NZ. He is an only child, and goes to Adventure School. He likes playing Star Wars Battlefront, and lying in bed. His favourite food is pasta.
Samuel Straachen lives in a house with two cats, a father, a mother and a sister. He goes to Adventure School and is interested in creative writing. When he grows up he wants to be an architect, or to work for Microsoft Computer Security.
Tiyani Mathur is from NZ. She likes to play on her computer. She loves black, and hates pink. She can be very noisy. In her spare time, Tiyani enjoys playing with her baby mini-lop rabbit, Elia.
Caleb Paynter lives in Whitby with his older brother, dog Teddy, and bunny named Bounce. He enjoys playing with his friends, and is mad about computer games.
Matthias Bentley is a Dr Who fanatic, who has a lot of friends. He loves to play rugby. Matthias was born in England, but now lives in Wellington. When he grows up, he wants to be an All Black.
Gemma Lovewell is world famous in Whitby for her book Our Big Box and short story ‘The Breeze.’ She loves to read, enjoys fantasy, and is completely obsessed with School of Dragons.
Richard Langston was born sometime ago in a small town and then moved to a big town where there was a newspaper office, a radio station, and a television station. He went to work at all three while magically producing three children and five books of poetry. His daughter who is 14 also writes poems, but does not like to talk about it.
When did you start writing poems?
I started reading poetry when I was in my twenties. I read poetry from New Zealand and then from the USA. I discovered a poem could make something happen in your head, as you read the words they became action in your head. It was as if someone had made a little film. The poem I’m thinking about is called ‘Loss’ by A.R. Ammons, and at the end of this poem you can see and feel flower petals floating off a stem. You might like to Google the poem, and see if you like it. I liked reading poetry so much I thought I would try and write some.
Where did you learn to write poetry?
Whatever I’ve learned has come from the poets I’ve read. I try and read a poem each day. I like to wake up and read one, and I always take a book of poems with me when I’m travelling. You can read poems so quickly – that appeals to me. You can enter a whole different world in a poem. I have had help along the way from some poets, including one of our best, Brian Turner. He showed me I needed to edit my poems, cut words out. I was using too many of them. He told me always to remember a poem is about ‘sound and sense.’
What was your first published poem? Was it inspired by your work as a reporter?
I think my first published poem was called ‘A Dead Dolphin Writes Home.’ I was out walking on a beach and came across the bones of a dolphin, at least I thought it was dolphin. I imagined that dolphin writing home to its mother. It was published in the university student newspaper in Dunedin, ‘Critic.’ A friend told me he thought it was rather strange. So it wasn’t inspired by my work as a reporter, but as an observer.
What were the best and worst things about being a TV reporter?
The best thing is you travel to lots of places and meet lots of people. It can be exciting. I’ve taken many trips in helicopters to report on the news, to plane crashes, to the grounding of the Cook Strait ferry, and even from Wellington to the Christchurch to report on the earthquake. I got to meet the Prince of Tonga and interview him in his palace. I got shot at once in a country called East Timor. That was a bit too exciting! The worst thing is you see people in distress and pain.
You wrote a lot of poems because of the Christchurch Earthquakes. Do you have a “standout” poem from this time?
I did write 13 poems about the earthquake. They are small poems about an enormous event. The one I like the best is ‘The No.3 Bus’ because it was about something so ordinary, yet something that could cost you your life that day. There’s another one about two survivors called ‘Two Voices.’ I interviewed the people in the poem and they told the most amazing story of helping each other survive for 22 hours while trapped in the wreckage of a building.
What famous book do you wish had been written by you?
The Oxford Dictionary – then I would be very well equipped!
If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I would go to Greece. I went there once and it was blue and white. Those are my favourite colours. And they had olives.
Do you write more for other people, or for yourself?
I write, hopefully, for both. I write lots of poems that stay in my notebook, so we could say those ones are for me. I keep them as a record of what I was trying to write at the time.
Which of your five published books of poetry is your favourite, or which are you most proud of?
The one I like the best is the second one, Henry, Come See the Blue because it has poems about people and summer, and about where I live, Island Bay, in Wellington. I also like one I wrote about reporters called The Newspaper Poems.
Did you ever learn any different languages? If so, what?
No, but I wish I had. Maori and French would be my choices. I’ve learned a smidgen of Maori working for Maori television, and working with Maori journalists. Maori sounds like tui talking – it makes beautiful sounds.
What inspires you to write?
A moment I want to record, or re-imagine. Writing a poem can be a lot of fun. Occasionally you can surprise yourself with how the poem turns out. Mine often come out of a mixture of memory and imagination. I recently had one published on a writer’s website about something very simple: a memory of my father (who died seven years ago) opening jars. Here it is:
Our mother would say,
‘This blessed thing is stuck,
can you open it?’
He made a particular sound
a particular grimace,
our father opening jars.
He would say, ‘only
a circus strongman or I
could’ve opened it’.
I just said that
after my wife handed me
a jar, I opened it
with a particular sound
a particular grimace.
Out popped our father.
Thank you for asking such good questions, I enjoyed answering them. Richard Langston.
Note from Paula: Thanks Richard and the Room 8 interviewers. Richard has three poems in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children. Two of them are about his daughter Milly and definitely don’t have too many words — just the right mix for sound and sense!