Each year the International Institute of Modern Letters invites leading international writers across a range of genres to teach masterclasses for current students of the MA in Creative Writing, and appear in public events in Wellington. Recent international guests have included Andrew Bovell, Brian Castro, Santo Cilauro, Teju Cole, Robert Dessaix, Mark Doty, Aminatta Forna, Richard Ford, Chris Gavaler, Lavinia Greenlaw, Lee Gutkind, Joy Harjo, Michael Hofman, Michael Hulse, Uwe Kolbe, August Kleinzahler, Hari Kunzru, Ben Lewin, David Malouf, Glyn Maxwell, Andrew Motion, Brigitte Oleschinski, Michael Palmer, Richard Powers, Ron Rash, Christopher Reid, Nicholas Roe, Ulrike Almut Sandig, Robert Shearman, Terese Svoboda, Christopher Vogler, Linda Vorhees, Eliot Weinberger and Lesley Wheeler.
Our first guests for 2013 were two prominent poets from Canada and the United States, Karen Solie and Mary Ruefle, who visited Wellington in March and April to talk to our students. They also featured in two special early Writers on Mondays events at City Gallery. The acclaimed UK author Scarlett Thomas, in New Zealand for the Auckland Writers' Festival, conducted a masterclass with MA students at the IIML in May.
Please note: the regular Writers on Mondays series runs from July to October each year. Programme details will be available soon.
Canadian poet Karen Solie came to us fresh from appearances at the Cork Poetry Festival and Adelaide Writers' Week. She was born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, and wanted a career as a veterinarian before falling for poetry. In 2001 her first collection, Short Haul Engine was awarded the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize and nominated for three other prizes. In 2005 she published her second collection, Modern and Normal, and her 2009 collection Pigeon won three prizes, including the prestigious Griffin Poetry Prize. She represented Canada at Simon Armitage's Poetry Parnassus in London last year.
Karen Solie's poems think hard about how we inhabit our urban and rural landscapes in the 21st century, and they're equally alert to the fragile nature of love and reason. Whether looking sideways at agribusiness and fracking or interrogating the ways in which we interpret or deceive ourselves, it's the 'affliction of desire – and the corrosive effects of human desire both upon ourselves and the world we inhabit – that Solie most often meditates upon in poems as humorous, often, as they are sobering.' (Judges' citation, Griffin Prize).
Karen was our Writers on Mondays guest, in conversation with Chris Price, on 11 March at City Gallery. In a visit to the MA workshop she talked about her current interest in the intersections of writing with painting, with references to the work of Ben Lerner, John Ashbery and Mark Rothko.
Karen Solie's visit was made possible with the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts.
Read Karen Solie's work on the Poetry International website:
Mary Ruefle has published ten books of poetry including a Selected Poems, as well as a book of witty 'prose' (The Most of It), and a comic book, Go Home and Go to Bed; she is also an erasure artist, whose treatments of nineteenth-century texts have been exhibited in museums and galleries, and published in A Little White Shadow. Most recently, her wise and effervescent collection of essays on poetry and life, Madness, Rack, and Honey, earned her a well-deserved shortlisting for this year's National Book Critics' Circle Awards. The New York Times reviewer declared Madness, Rack, and Honey 'one of the wisest books I’ve read in years…it would be a shame to think that only poets will read it.'
Mary Ruefle has been the recipient of numerous honours, including the William Carlos Williams award, an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a Guggenheim fellowship. She currently lives in Vermont, teaches in the MFA in Writing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts and is a visiting professor at the Iowa Writers' Workshop.
'Ruefle is clearly one of the best American poets writing, and her body of work is remarkable for its spiritual force, intelligence, stylistic virtuosity, and adventurousness.' — Tony Hoagland
Mary was our guest for an extraordinary standing-room-only reading and conversation with Bill Manhire on 15 April at City Gallery. She also conducted a day-long masterclass with our MA workshop, for which she set the following exercise: 'Write a poem that doesn't make any sense, using the skills, ideas, and notions you have about what makes a good poem. (No nonsense words, please!)'
Scarlett Thomas is the author of several novels including Bright Young Things, The End of Mr. Y (longlisted for the Orange Prize), PopCo and Our Tragic Universe. Her fiction is highly acclaimed for its intellectual exuberance, and her books have been translated into more than 20 languages.
She teaches Creative Writing at the University of Kent and has written a guide to creative writing, Monkeys With Typewriters. She says 'the process of fictionalisation… is an almost unfathomable, but always exciting, conversation between the real and the unreal… fiction must somehow take its bearings from the real, and in the end have a bearing on it.'
Scarlett Thomas is a guest at this year's Sydney and Auckland writers' festivals. She visited Wellington to conduct a masterclass with our MA cohort on Wednesday 8 May, following a public appearance at Unity Books the previous day. During her well-timed, stimulating masterclass at the IIML, Scarlett read from her work in progress and discussed T.S. Eliot's principle of the objective correlative. The conversation ranged from Katherine Mansfield's use of light to Stanislavski's approach to building a character. The class looked closely at Chekhov's story 'Lady with the Little Dog', and Scarlett took the students through an exercise that made the most of the Modern Letters workshop room view.