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Literature festival shares love of books

Featherston Booktown patrons at the fish and chips supper event on Friday. PHOTOS/JOHN LAZO-RON

JOHN LAZO-RON
[email protected]

A traditional serving of gourmet fish and chips, poetry royalty, and some non-traditional “outside the box” poetry officially kicked off the Featherston Booktown Karukatea Festival on Friday night.

An energetic atmosphere filled Anzac Hall with close to 300 people gathering to experience their first taste of the festival in two years after last year’s event was cancelled due to covid.

There were 55 events, 99 presenters and literary provocateurs, along with 20 booksellers at this year’s event.

Friday night got under way with the smooth sounds of Wellington band Ida Lune before Paora Ammunsen [Ngati Kahungunu/Rangitane] opened the festival with a karakia.

This year, Featherston Booktown Karukatea was able to add poetry royalty to their list of speakers, with former New Zealand Poet Laureate Dr Selina Tusitala Marsh making her way to the South Wairarapa town.

Tusitala Marsh was the first Pacific Islander to gain a PhD in English and has a reputation for her boundary-breaking poetry style.

Festival officials said they had been trying to get her in since the inaugural festival six years ago.

Tusitala Marsh spoke on kids, dreams, and inspiration, wowing the audience which included New Zealand media icon John Campbell.

“This festival is so warm, and so community centred, I’m just really humbled. Humbled to be here and beautifully received,” Tusitala Marsh said on her experience at the festival.

Earlier, Campbell and Tusitala Marsh could be seen bantering each other. He mentioned he was Tusitala Marsh’s number one fan.

Featherston child Floyd Goble was at the Heritage Museum to help Graham Judd print a bookmark with his name on it.

When asked how it felt to have her number one supporter Campbell in the crowd, she quipped, “who?”

Tusitala Marsh’s sequence was followed by the Show Ponies, who performed for the ‘Late Nite Lit’ part of the festival.

The group, made up of several poets from Wellington, was not what you would consider your traditional poets.

Some of the poets had dancers, while another had a drummer perform with their readings.

Freya Daly Sadgrove, who started the group, said Show Ponies was about shaking off any associations people had with poetry shows and making poets into popstars.

Acclaimed multiple-award-winning children’s author Joy Cowley is usually the one spelling out the books. But on Sunday, she was the one being honoured in writing form, with author David Riley launching his biography about Cowley in front of a packed crowd at Featherston’s Royal Hotel.

Riley said he wrote the book on Cowley because he wanted to inspire children who may want to be writers but feel they weren’t good enough.

“I wanted to share [Cowley’s] story,” he said.

“She had the same experience when she was young, so this book is to inspire those young authors – they can do it too.”

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