What I Write About When I’m Not Writing About Myself

Date: 28 April
Location: Preservatorium, 39 Webb Street. Wellington City
Time: 6-8 pm
Faculty: Helen Rickerby, Chris Tse, Stefanie Lash
Cost: $35 nzd (includes dinner and discussion)
Contact: kirsten@kahini.org
Register: Registration is available here

We are getting absolutely constricted by the idea of writing as authenticity, i.e. autobiography…I’m clearly not a mad male psychiatrist or even Gil from the Monkey’s Mask, or an Egyptian Pharaoh, or the character in my next book who is an astrobiologist. I’m none of these people. I think that for me the most wonderful aspect of the imagination…is liberty and freedom. It’s not waving the flag of authenticity all the time. And for me, that is my authenticity, the power of my imagination.
~Dorothy Porter

These days, poetry is generally seen as, by default, an autobiographical form, where we write lyric poems about what we’re feeling, or doing, or have observed. But sometimes we don’t want to write about ourselves. Poetry can be, and has been, broader than that, and can incorporate other forms such as fiction, creative non-fiction, journalism, biography, history and essay.

Join us for an evening of discussion and dinner with three poets, Helen Rickerby, Chris Tse and Stefanie Lash, who have experimented with using poetry for writing about things outside themselves–biography, fiction, film criticism, natural history. They’ll talk about their own work and the work of others that combines poetry with another non-autobiographical genre.

We will inevitably discuss what poetry brings to these other forms, the tensions and benefits of melding two genres, and the characteristics of poetry – just what is poetry anyway? And even when inhabiting another, are you still there anyway? Was Oscar Wilde right when he said: ‘Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.’


NZ3Helen Rickerby has published four collections of poetry, most recently Cinema, which took its inspiration from films and film-making. Her collection My Iron Spine, featured biographical poems about women, many of whom have been neglected by history. In 2014 she co-organised Truth or Beauty, a conference about biographical poetry. She is the managing editor of Seraph Press, and is co-managing editor of JAAM literary magazine. She’s currently working on her next collection (working title: How to Live), which attempts to grapple with the big philosophical issues, but will not attempt to answer them.

NZ1Chris Tse was born and raised in Lower Hutt. He studied film and English literature at Victoria University of Wellington, where he also completed an MA in Creative Writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters. Chris’ poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction have been recorded for radio and published in numerous journals, magazines, and anthologies both in New Zealand and overseas. He was one of three poets included in the joint collection AUP New Poets 4 and his first full-length poetry collection How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes, was published by Auckland University Press in September 2014.

NZ2Stefanie Lash is a poet and archivist who lives in Aro Valley, Wellington. Bird Murder was her first book, published in 2014, and she is working on her second, in which she discovers the entrance to the underworld in Fiordland.



Any questions or to pay by internet banking contact Kirsten

Dinner will be prepared by the wonderful team at Preservatorium and include vegetarian and gluten free options. If you have any other dietary requirements please let Kirsten know.