Owen Marshall and Witi Ihimaera chosen as 2015 Randell Cottage Writers in Residence

Two of New Zealand’s leading writers, Witi Ihimaera and Owen Marshall, have been jointly named as Creative New Zealand-Randell Cottage Writers in Residence for 2015. This is an unusual move for the residency, which selection panel chair Vincent O’Sullivan describes as an “elegant response to an extraordinary number of impressive applications.”

The writers will live and work in Thorndon’s Randell Cottage for three months each, in the second half of 2015.

Witi Ihimaera is a novelist, short story writer, anthologist and librettist, was born in Gisborne. He is of Te Whānau A Kai and Ngāti Porou descent with close affiliations to Te Aitanga A Mahaki, Rongowhakaata, Tūhoe, Te Whakatōhea, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui and Ngāti Kahungunu. His works include Tangi, The Matriarch, The Whale Rider, (which was made in to a film by Niki Caro in 2002), the semi-autobiographical Nights in the Gardens of Spain, and The Parihaka Woman. A memoir, Māori Boy has just been released by Random House. Ihimaera became a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2004, for services to literature.

Ihimaera will use his time at the Randell Cottage to work on a second volume of his three volume memoir Native Son, covering the period 1961 to 1990, a trajectory that sets his life against national and international history, delineating the professional dilemmas as well as the personal. The residency will enable him to consult his own archives at the J.B. Beaglehole Room and also the Foreign Affairs archives at the National Library.

“I’ve got a deadline to meet with Native Son,” he says. “I want to finish the book for publication by the end of 2016 at the latest, so the three months working out of the Randell Cottage will keep me on target to deliver. As well, writing a book is like running a marathon, so there’s a physical advantage in the residency as it’s equidistant to my two archives. I’ll be walking between both and that will keep me fit to cope with the mental and emotional rigour of the work.”

Timaru-based writer Owen Marshall has published or edited almost thirty books, including novels, short stories and poetry including Living as a Moon, Watch of Gryphons, Carnival Sky, The Larnachs and Drybread. His 1999 novel Harlequin Rex won the 2000 Deutz Medal for Fiction at the Montana Book Awards. He has held fellowships at the universities of Canterbury and Otago and in Menton, France. Marshall is an adjunct professor at the University of Canterbury, which awarded him the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters in 2002. In 2000 he became an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature and in 2012, a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. In 2013 Marshall was awarded the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in fiction.

Marshall will be working on a contemporary novel concerning a love affair between a mature couple, one a widower, the other married, in which he will explore the power of such emotional attachments and their sometimes irrational and damaging consequences.

For Marshall: “It’s a privilege and a pleasure to share the 2015 fellowship with Witi Ihimaera and I look forward to writing in the stimulating environment of Wellington and being part of the literary community there.”

O’Sullivan says both the proposed projects are significant: “The Randall Trust is delighted to play its part in giving what support it can to these eminent writers.”

The Randell Cottage Writers Trust was established in 2002. The restored Thorndon cottage, one of Wellington’s ten oldest buildings, was gifted to the trust by the Price family and hosts two writers a year; one from New Zealand and the other from France. The 2015 French resident, writer and translator David Fauquemberg arrives in Wellington in January 2015. The current New Zealand resident is Kapiti Coast writer Tina Makereti who is writing an historical and allegorical novel based on the experiences of the indigenous people who were exhibited in Victorian London, and elsewhere in Europe, as cultural artefacts and oddities.

The 2015 Randell Cottage French writer in residence is David Fauquemberg

David Fauquemberg
Photo by Christine Tamalet.

Born in 1973, David Fauquemberg lives in the Cotentin area of Normandy. A novelist, he has published work in magazines such as XXI, Géo and Long Cours. He is also a translator (of Nadine Gordimer, R. L. Stevenson, James Meek, Willy Vlautin). While studying literature he travelled intermittently to faraway places such as Patagonia and Lappland, and sailed across the Atlantic. He taught philosophy for a few months, before hitting the road again.

He spent two years in Australia, the inspiration for his first novel, Nullarbor (Hoëbeke, 2007), winner of the Nicolas Bouvier Prize for travel writing. Mal tiempo (Fayard, 2009), which has a boxing theme and is set in Cuba, was awarded the Millepages Prize, the Prix des Hebdos en Région Prize and the City of Caen Prize.

His most recent novel Manuel el Négro, published by Fayard in 2013, is the result of a long stay in the world of Andalucia’s flamenco gypsies. David will arrive in Wellington in mid-January.

Randell Cottage Writers Trust online poetry festival — Mary McCallum

poetry day logo 2014 webThe Randell Cottage Writers Trust is marking National Poetry Day (22 August 2014) with our own online poetry festival, a series of poems by Randell Cottage poets (a term encompassing our residents, trustees and committee members).


mary mccallumMary McCallum is a publisher, poet and author.  Her children’s novel  Dappled Annie and the Tigrish (Gecko) was published in new Zealand in February 2014 and will be released in the United Kingdom and United States in Autumn 2014.  Her first novel, The Blue (Penguin 2007), won two Montana NZ Book Awards (Best First Book of Prose & Readers’ Choice) and she is currently working on a second novel.  Mary has also been a long-serving chair of the Friends of the Randell Cottage.


Four Poets, Randell Cottage, 2009 – Mary McCallum

I walk in on them, four poets eating scones, plates

balanced on their laps, cups in hand, caught like

teapots in a cupboard. That room, once the singing

room, once  a bedroom for spinster sisters,  built

in a time of family bibles and blue-glass bottles.  Now

there’s a bar heater, laptop, plate of softening butter,

and poets of some standing, sitting at odd angles,

protruding an elbow – an ankle – a knee, swallowing

cooling tea, handing out words with silver tongs.

Kirsty and Fiona, Vincent, Christopher Reid – eyes

shifting from the blocked fireplace, to the blank

ceiling, not one letting on that the air is constricted, that

they’re the wrong sized dolls for this doll’s house, that

the chimney creaks. Do they know or do they guess?

In the quiet cavity above, a child’s clothes were found.


Mary McCallum

Randell Cottage Writers Trust online poetry festival — Pat White

poetry day logo 2014 webThe Randell Cottage Writers Trust is marking National Poetry Day (22 August 2014) with our own online poetry festival, a series of poems by Randell Cottage poets (a term encompassing our residents, trustees and committee members).


Patrick Valdimar White

Our 2010 New Zealand resident Pat White is a poet, essayist and artist whose work reflects his passion for the natural environment and an exploration of the way individuals relate to the land. His poetry collections are: Signposts (1977), Bushfall (1978), Cut Across the Grain (1980), Acts of Resistance (1985), Dark Backward (1994), Drought and Other Intimacies (1999), and Planting the Olives (2004). He has also published In Gallipoli: In search of a family story (Red Roofs, 2005). Pat’s Randell project, The Quality of Light: A Writer on the West Coast is a biography of the teacher, writer, bookseller and conservationist Peter Hooper, to be published by Mākaro Press.


Not my favourite spa

Who cannot fly
cannot imagine: Michael
late summer days
too hot to engage
with what might
once have been
from an old letter
knocking dust off
clearing silverfish
from the margins
a small poem
that after all
doesn’t particularly
go anywhere
but doesn’t hurry
to get there
either, the day
being as it is


Pat White
Not my favourite spa is to be included in a forthcoming collection of poems tentatively titled Naturally.

Randell Cottage Writers Trust online poetry festival — Michael Harlow

poetry day logo 2014 webThe Randell Cottage Writers Trust is marking National Poetry Day (22 August 2014) with our own online poetry festival, a series of poems by Randell Cottage poets (a term encompassing our residents, trustees and committee members).


michael harlowOur 2004 resident Michael Harlow is a poet, publisher and librettist. Born in the United States, with Greek and Ukrainian heritage, he settled in New Zealand in 1968. Michael has been editor of the Caxton Press poetry series and poetry editor of Landfall. He’s also been a recipient of the Katherine Mansfield Fellowship and in March 2014 was presented with the 2014 Lauris Edmond Memorial Award for Distinguished Contribution to Poetry in New Zealand.


Longing for Harmonies,
lettre de Menton

Have you ever noticed?
Always there’s a pair
of them together; ring-collar
doves, even when they’re
flying switchback from tree
to tree, daubs of colour
in a toss of light, you can’t
tell which one is following
the other. Have you listened
to them singing their hearts
out under the parasols of trees?
I swear you never know
when one song begins
and the other one ends.
You might say–they have an
arrangement: one long song
for two voices: they are calling
down the lost noises of the sun
and clearly–this ‘magic study
of happiness that no one eludes’.


Michael Harlow / Clos du Peyronnet
First published in Cassandra’s Daughter (Auckland University Press, 2005, 2006)

Randell Cottage Writers Trust online poetry festival — Renée

poetry day logo 2014 webThe Randell Cottage Writers Trust is marking National Poetry Day (22 August 2014) with our own online poetry festival, a series of poems by Randell Cottage poets (a term encompassing our residents, trustees and committee members).



Renée photo2Of Ngati Kahungunu and Irish-English-Scots ancestry, Renée was our New Zealand writer in 2005 and spent her winter working on the first draft of a new play. Since the residency, she’s written a play, Shall We Gather at the River, two e-novels, Too Many Cooks and Once Bitten, and is currently working on the third in the trilogy of novels about characters who live on Vogel Place, Porohiwi, No Good Crying. In August 2013, Renée was presented with a Kingi Ihaka award for contributions to literature and theatre and to teaching and mentoring. Her website WednesdayBusk features chapters from her e-books, poems and interviews.

Tall Woman in a Frame

Your eyes are narrowed to keep out the intrusive sun

your mouth a line closed against God, life, a stone

caught in your sensible black shoe

you married a widower twice your age, two children

to head the twelve you had, and two who lie in beds

of quiet in the houses of the dead

behind the line of your mouth red slippers

dance under embroidered skirts, purple satin shawls

tease violins and somewhere a silver flute signals

platters of pomegranates, pears, their pale juices

lush on another’s lips – blue birds play with bees

leopards offer sweetmeats, pour wine in glasses

sunflowers turn their heads and bow as you stride

into high floating air – you climb that steep slope

stand arm raised: but here in the black wooden frame

you pose – behind you a trellis fence, beyond that the tree

under which you were born and where that line began

to carve itself into the newborn pink of your mouth.


First published on Renée’s WednesdayBusk.

Randell Cottage Writers Trust online poetry festival — Jo Thorpe

poetry day logo 2014 webThe Randell Cottage Writers Trust is marking National Poetry Day (22 August 2014) with our own online poetry festival, a series of poems by Randell Cottage poets (a term encompassing our residents, trustees and committee members).


Jo ThorpeRandell Cottage trustee Jo Thorpe is a poet, dancer, and dance historian. Her poems have featured in journals and anthologies. Her first collection of poetry, Len & Other Poems (2003), was written in response to the work of visionary kinetic artist Len Lye.


The scientists for orbital debris
are tracking some twenty thousand remnants
of hatch covers, launch rockets,
fragments of satellites colliding over Russia,
things which escape or have been dumped.
Another hundred thousand, a centimetre or more
are not yet being monitored.
In the photo they shine like stars – a kind of
prickly swaddle, pinpoints of metal
which because of their velocity
are capable of damaging
space stations, shuttles, any cosmonauts on board.

What this news tells me
is there’s a limit to the number of things which can orbit
other things. Lovers, for example.
The problem lies in deciding how many.
And how remove an object once it’s
reached the end of its mission? – the philanderer, say,
from the subject of his pursuit?
The good news is the debris doesn’t last
forever. There’s something about
the vigour of matter
lessening in the lower orbits
so the body falls back – like a thing exhausted,
like the feeling after sex as described in the books –
back into the ‘ruthless furnace of this world’
where it burns itself out, completely.

How the scientists plan to tidy up space
is by using weak lasers like water cannons
to push the junk closer to turbulent Earth –
where the striving goes on, as effortful
as elephants, a quality admired
provided you’re not versed
in the Japanese notion of the floating world
which has nothing to do with being driven.
Better the idea of launching
swarms of cubes – those foursquare things
nosy as an interested cop – which have
sails that will open, attach themselves to the miscreant mess
(though how they’ll do that, the scientists don’t say)
and spinnaker them
down to where they’ll burn.

What I want to say is,
if you unfurl your sails,
if you hunt for me in glamorous space,
don’t think I’m so small that I can’t
cause damage.

Jo Thorpe
First published Sport 40, 2012.
Translated into German and published in Neue Rundschau, Heft 1/2013

Randell Cottage Writers Trust online poetry festival — Fiona Kidman

poetry day logo 2014 webThe Randell Cottage Writers Trust is marking National Poetry Day (22 August 2014) with our own online poetry festival, a series of poems by Randell Cottage poets (a term encompassing our residents, trustees and committee members).


Courtesy of Random House NZ
Courtesy of Random House NZ

Author, poet, scriptwriter, writing teacher… Fiona Kidman is a founding trustee of the Randell Cottage Writers Trust. The poem below was written in Menton in 2006, during her time as Katherine Mansfield Fellow. At the time, she hadn’t written poetry for fifteen or so years but says there was something about the light, the place, the peaches, that set the poet’s pen free.


The garden at Sainte-Agnès
for Ian

Hanging there in the rocks,
the highest coastal village
in all of Europe: the first challenge
is to climb to the ruin of the castle
at the very top, and the next
is to climb back down. But somewhere

round eight hundred metres
there is a medieval garden
tended by two patient women.
There were days when we needed
to go to the hills, to sit in the garden
beside the low parterres

shaped in crosses and stars
around the apple trees, to simply
watch the small orange butterflies
losing themselves in the spent
tiger lilies, inhale the thyme
and chives and potted sage

and watch the sheep of Sainte-Agnès
grazing in all the dim sweet
green world down below. If it was
never more perfect than this
it would be enough and more. Dear,
there is so much to remember.

Fiona Kidman
From Where Your Left Hand Rests, Random House New Zealand, 2020