WORD Christchurch 2023: Arwen’s picks – Poetry and Queer Joy

Every time WORD Christchurch Festival comes round I get to take my pick of some fantastic poetry events. Number one this year is Unruly Memories- a special guided tour of the Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora, with a stunning line-up of poets responding to the familiar yet ever changing space. The not-to-be-missed line up is composed of Ariana Tikao (Kāi Tahu), Claudia Jardine, Frankie McMillan, Isla Huia (Te Āti Haunui a-Pāpārangi, Uenuku) and Nathan Joe. In the second half of the event, everyone is invited for a drink with the poets in the great hall. If I wrote about the poets one by one, no-one would finish reading this blog, so I’ll tell you about the one that inspired me to pick this event.

Hearing broad perspectives on familiar places can completely alter how you view them. At Isla Huia’s debut book launch, Talia, she read her poem ‘god-ley’ which she wrote for a similar event. It’s about the monument in cathedral square, a relaxed looking man on a pedestal staring the cathedral in the eye. I never really noticed it or even knew who he was, why he was there.

Now whenever I visit the square, I recognize him- and my feelings towards this city. When I look up at him the line that resounds in my head is -

“let me see the sky/ your stomach takes up”.

Now, preparing for WORD Festival 2023 and getting ready to hear incredible poets speak about another historic place, I am looking forward to seeing how my view of the Arts Centre may shift.


The next event I’m heading to is The Importance of Writing Queer Joy, chaired by the talented artist and advocate Jennifer Katherine Shields. If you can’t make it to Shaneel Lal’s talk, don’t be disappointed - because they’re on this panel, along with Christchurch writers A.J Fitzwater and Karen Healey. They’ll be discussing how in our current political climate writing queer characters experiencing queer joy can be a political and a lifesaving act.

I’m excited to get some reading recommendations out of this event for the Queer Book Club at Tūranga. I read one of A.J Fitzwater’s stories in the Out Here anthology for our short story theme last month, and I’m really looking forward to hearing them speak on this topic. One of the reasons our book club was set up was to build communal recommendations of fulfilling queer representation. I feel that this panel is working on a very similar kaupapa, so I’m really looking forward to hearing what they have to say.

One of Them

No Man's Land

While We Run

The line up for WORD this year is fantastic and it’s been so hard to choose just a couple of events! I’ll see you all there.

Hapori, Tūranga

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