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Poetry and art combine in project

American visual artist Kerry McGill is in Masterton on a two-month fellowship with New Zealand Pacific Studios. PHOTO/ALEYNA MARTINEZ

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Kerry McGill, a visual artist from Massachusetts, muses the small Wairarapa fishing and holiday town of Ngawi near Cape Palliser is a long way from Maui but it has definitely resonated with her in her work reinterpreting maps and treating them like puzzles.

In Masterton for two months with New Zealand Pacific Studios, McGill is the 2020 Masterton District Fellow, an initiative supported by Masterton District Council.

She is working on a new feature of the poetry walk started by Masterton writer Chris Daniell.

McGill will reinterpret a stranger’s poem visually; given to her by Daniell and written by Masterton historian Gareth Winter.

“It was written when he was 15 and so he’d probably write it differently than he would today, but he struggled at aged 15 being in the football team and being tough but also wanting to write poems,” Daniell, who is known for the poetry work she does in and around Masterton high schools and New Zealand Pacific Studio, said.

“That dichotomy is interesting.

“I just want people to be proud of their words on the walls and we need to encourage children to read and write, and I really love it when adults and children send poems.”

McGill’s last job was based in Dubai with her partner who also builds sets for movies.

“Basically he builds the set and I paint it,” McGill said.

She has worked on Hollywood films including Free Guy which stars Taika Waititi and Ryan Reynolds, and will be released later this year.

She told the Times-Age she came to New Zealand after United Emirates “messed up our plane tickets”.

The couple had just completed building a virtual reality theme park.

“I immediately started looking for an artist residency because I’m not a very good tourist. I actually really enjoy feeling like I’m part of a community.

“I wanted to be here for two months – when I work, I work hard and I save every penny and I eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and then it affords me this experience.”

The first piece in the Outdoor Poems not Public Poetry Project, McGill and Winter’s collaboration is the next level in Daniell’s vision for using poetry to spread happiness into people’s days.

“We’re branching out from having them on walls in sticker form because you can’t put a poster on to wood – most places it won’t stick on”, Daniell said.

The poem which will be hand-painted by McGill was chosen to go up on the side of the Strada cafe wall on Jackson St.

“This is a new idea to explore different ways to present a poem and also give a new aspect to it,” Daniell said.

Excited about sharing Winter’s poem because it addressed the difficulties of being a football player but a poet too, Daniell said, “It’s more acceptable to talk about it now, you can talk about being bullied or whatever or being thought of as a nerd because you wrote poetry but you’re also in the football team”.

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