Benedict talks about himself…
Hello, I’m Benedict. I’m 6 years old. I live in Mt Albert, Auckland and I go to Gladstone School, which is just across the road. I have a little sister and we have a ginger cat called Milly. I like to read books about adventures like Sword Girl and Sir Cumference books. I like to do playball and swimming and play with Lego and my pirate ships. I am writing a recipe book and am nearly finished my story ‘The Adventures of Anything-Man’. When I grow up I think I will be an author or fireman or have a cafe.
Kiri Piahana-Wong was inspired to be a poet by her mother, who read her poetry by famous American and English poets, such as William Blake and Robert Frost, from the age of two. Her favourite poem as a child was Blake’s ‘Tiger, Tiger’. Kiri started writing her own poetry at six years of age. Her first poem was an ode to her teddy bear. From there she kept on writing and had a number of poems published throughout her school years. In her adult life she went on to publish many poems in journals and anthologies, and published her first poetry book, night swimming, in 2013. Kiri also helps organise an event called Poetry Live, New Zealand’s longest-running live poetry venue, and runs a small publishing company called Anahera Press that publishes poetry books.
- How long have you been writing poems?
Since I was six years old.
- How did you become a poet?
From the day I started writing poetry as a child, I just kept going and never stopped. In my twenties I tried for a long time to have my poetry published but initially had no success. Then when I was 28 I had a poem published in an online journal called Snorkel. After that for some reason it became easier and I had many poems published in journals and anthologies (like A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children my poem ‘night swimming’ is in). I also published my own book. People started asking me to read my poetry and help run events. It’s been fun!
- How many poems have you written?
I’m not sure but it would be in the hundreds. For many years I kept all of my poems and drafts in a box under my bed!
- How do you get the ideas for the poems?
From things that happen to me and things I see around me.
- How do you choose the words?
In my best poems the words just come to me without the sense that I need to hunt for them or choose them . If I do set out to write a poem I try to choose words that sound good together, or that create a fresh, beautiful or unusual image.
- How old are you?
I am 37 years old. When I was in my early 30s I still felt like someone in my 20s. I think I thought I was 27 for at least five years! But now I feel my age.
- Where do you live? Do you write about where you live?
Until recently I lived at Laingholm, which is on Auckland’s west coast near Titirangi. It’s a very beautiful place by the sea. Laingholm found its way into nearly all of my poetry – the birds, like the duck we adopted and named Jump, the tui and rainbow lorikeets; the beach and sea; the weather; and my house, which was like a big beach house.
- What do you like doing when you are not writing?
Reading, swimming, spending time with my friends. I like going to music gigs. I also spend too much time on Facebook.
- Do you read poetry?
Yes I love to read poetry and own around two hundred poetry books.
10. Do you know the poem ‘The Man in the Moon’? It’s one of my favourites. What are your favourites?
I love Hone Tuwhare’s ‘Rain’ and Glenn Colquhoun’s ‘Waiata Aroha’ (which is written in both Maori and English). Apart from those I’d find it hard to choose individual poems, but poets I really like are Karlo Mila, Jenny Bornholdt, Sylvia Plath, Pablo Neruda, Michael Ondaatje and Wallace Stevens. My favourite Stevens poem is ‘The Idea of Order at Key West’. It’s an amazing poem that I never get tired of.
11. What’s the hardest thing about writing poems?
Finding a way to express myself that is fresh and unique. Also sometimes with a poem I’ll have something I want to say and after writing it feel that it just isn’t saying what I wanted it to. If that happens I’ll try to rewrite it, but usually it means the poem won’t work out.
12. What’s the best thing?
When I finish a poem and it says exactly what I wanted it to, and it’s clear and concise. Or when someone tells me one of my poems moved them or helped them in some way.
What a wonderful interview Kiri and Benedict. Lots to think about when writing a poem. Thank you!