The Treasury Interviews: The Lions from Adventure School interview Robert Sullivan

The Interviewers:



The Lions Reading Group is in Year 4 at Adventure School in Porirua

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.


Robert Sullivan (Ngāpuhi)



Robert Sullivan, is an author, poet, anthologist and teacher. He is Head of the Creative Writing Programme at Manukau Institute of Technology. He has written a number of collections of poetry and has mostly recently edited an anthology of Māori poetry with Reina Whaiti (Puna Wai Kōrero). He has also written an award winning collection of Māori legends for children.


The Interview

What makes a poem a poem?

That’s a really good question. I think if the poet says it’s a poem then that’s a good start. Some poets write a poem as if it’s a concrete mixer churning away, and others write like they’re rap stars or hip hop artists, and others stick poems on fridges. Poems are everywhere you want them to be, and everything you want them to be.

Do you have other people who help you to write?

When I started to write I used to show my poems to friends. We started up a writing group, and then we started to publish our own journal which was really cool.

Do you use your Irish heritage in your writing, as well as Maori?

I do a little bit, mainly because I like to read some of the Irish poets and so their ideas pop up sometimes in my writing.

Do you write for a particular age group?

I mainly write for adults, and also for my family which range in age from my nieces and nephews who are quite a bit younger than me right up to my grandparents.

What setting do you need to come up with poems? Do you do your writing or thinking in any unusual places?

The best place for me to write is in my mother’s village in the Bay of Islands—I can feel close to my ancestors up there. Otherwise, I write at home in Auckland, but imagine I’m writing in the village at my grandfather’s place.

Did you ever do a job that didn’t involve writing?

I used to be a librarian—I loved that job. I also used to sell vacuum cleaners which was my very first job.

Did you always like poetry?

Pretty much!

When you started writing poetry at 18 years old, did you have any favourite poems to inspire you?

There was a poem I admired written by Nissim Ezekiel called ‘Night of the Scorpion’—I was 12, and read it out loud in a speech contest at school. That was my first understanding of the power of a poem, especially when it is read out loud.

Did you continue writing poems when you worked in Hawaii?

Yes. My book Voice Carried My Family was finished in Hawaii, plus a few other books.

What are your hobbies?

Astronomy. I have a new telescope so I’ve seen the rings of Saturn. I like playing badminton and tennis too.

What would you choose to write about, if you only got to write one poem?

The meaning of life so it would be a very long poem.

What does your writing format look like when you begin – do you plan your work? If so, how?

My poetry is organic. I get a line, or an image, and start from there—it either grows and grows, or it stays close to that first line or image. I wrote a very long poem called ‘Captain Cook in the Underworld’ and that one was planned out in three acts like a play as it was also sung like a short opera with singers and an orchestra.

What is the best thing about teaching creative writing?

The students!

Thanks Robert and The Lions for a terrific interview. Great questions and great answers.

1411441130757 1400029186996 books

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