Good News from Ireland

New Zealander Heidi North has just won the 1,000 Euro first prize in the Adult English section of the 2007 International Féile Filíochta Poetry Competition in Ireland with her poem The Women.

That’s great news: great for Heidi, great for New Zealand poetry, but also especially pleasing to me because Heidi and I were part of the 2003 intake for the Victoria University undergraduate creative writing paper CREW 256 Writing the Landscape, taught by Dinah Hawken.

I have ambivalent feelings about creative writing courses in general, but my feelings about this course remain quite unmixed: it’s great. Dinah is a wonderful tutor, the course (covering landscape writing in both poetry and creative non-fiction) was excellent, and the group of students in 2003 – twelve of us, eight women and four men, ranging in age from early 20s to considerably older, and with widely differing levels of prior writing experience – really clicked. Some fine work was written on that course (and not all of it was about penguins mating under the floorboards of the houses on Matiu-Somes).

About half the original group still live in and around Wellington. After the course finished, many of us continued to meet regularly to share our work; we don’t meet so often any more, but we still catch up from time to time. Many of those unpublished at the time of the course have gone on to subsequent publication, and Heidi isn’t the only one to be making a name for herself: I expect I’ll be mentioning the successes of other members of the group sooner rather than later.

I like Heidi’s poem a lot, and I’m delighted for her success. If you’re at all interested in landscape and nature writing, or if you’re simply interested in becoming a better writer, and you live in the Wellington region, I can recommend Writing the Landscape as a course that’s well worth taking.

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