Friday, August 28, 2015

Janet Frame Poetry Prize for Dunedin Author

Janet Frame Poetry Prize Announcement
28 August 2015
David Eggleton
Photograph by Liz March
Dunedin poet David Eggleton has been named as the recipient of the 2015 Janet Frame Literary Trust Award for Poetry. He will be presented with a cheque for $5,000 at a National Poetry Day Event to be held in Dunedin tonight in honour of Janet Frame’s birthday. Janet Frame founded her charitable trust in 1999 and bequeathed an endowment fund to benefit New Zealand writers. Since Frame’s death in Dunedin in 2004 her estate has given out $110,000 in grants to writers as well as donations to literary causes.
David Eggleton said: “I am thrilled to receive this special Award, both because of what it means in terms of recognition and support for my own writing, and because Janet Frame is one of my favourite authors, a writer whose work speaks volumes about being a New Zealander, while challenging the orthodoxies. She is undoubtedly a major figure in world literature. To be associated with her legacy in this way is a great honour.”
Raised in Fiji and South Auckland but now based in Dunedin, David Eggleton is a poet, critic, editor and free-lance journalist who has published seven books of poetry, one of short fiction and many more non-fiction works. He first came to prominence as a performance poet wielding vernacular rhythms and eclectic subject matter into satirical and lyrical incantations that have been described as ‘mesmeric’. His work has been widely anthologised. His previous accolades include awards for Best First Book of Poetry, Best Book Reviewer, and ‘Street Entertainer of the Year’ (London, 1985). He held the Robert Burns Fellowship in 1990. Eggleton is the current editor of the New Zealand literary magazine Landfall. His latest book of poems ‘The Conch Trumpet’ was published by Otago UniversityPress earlier this year.

Janet Frame Literary Trust Chair Pamela Gordon said: “We are very pleased to acknowledge David Eggleton’s significant contribution to a vibrant contemporary New Zealand literary scene. He has been carving out a versatile, robust and courageous career, combining poetry with music, performance, art, film and multi-media. His is an independent and yet inclusive voice of Aotearoa New Zealand set in its Pasifika context, offering swathes of a beautiful lyricism combined with a searing honesty. His latest work ‘Conch Trumpet’ shows his poetic voice at its very best and the trustees felt that this outstanding achievement should be recognised.”

David Eggleton poem and its translation into Polish projected onto a city wall in Krakow, Poland (eMultipoetry)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Red Letter Day

Dunedin Public Library is looking festive this week ahead of the Janet Frame Birthday celebration to be held on 2015 National Poetry Day on Friday August 28th.
'Many Happy Returns' brings together three highly acclaimed local and visiting poets:
along with three prizewinning secondary school poets:
Beth Lynch
Molly Crichton
Christian Tucker
and the MC is Dunedin poet Diane Brown.
What a feast.

Dunedin Public Libraries have produced a series of Poetry Day Posters with a poem each from all 6 readers, plus the MC, and also from the Birthday poet Janet Frame.

Janet Frame's poem is 'Wyndham':


(Above is the full Janet Frame poster with the red letter motif - D for Dunedin)

The Bayfield High School Librarian has set up a fantastic display of all the Poetry Day posters.
Wonderful to see young people being inspired and involved in Poetry Day celebrations.
Janet Frame would have approved.

Daffodil Day

Friday the 28th of August 2015 is not just New Zealand's National Poetry Day and Janet Frame's Birthday, it is also the Cancer Society's Daffodil Day.
To learn more about the Cancer Society and to donate please visit:

'a fascinating evocation of the creation of a writer'

It was good to see Jane Campion's legendary film An Angel at My Table (based on Janet Frame's autobiography) in this list of ten essential films about Twentieth century writers. In good company, too.

Originally released in 1990, the luminescent Angel shows no signs of age at all, with frequent rescreenings and TV airings all around the world in countless languages, and it continues to pick up new enthusiastic fans.

Monday, August 24, 2015

A fictional book within a book that you CAN read

I was intrigued to come across a Huffington Post list about "fictional books within books we wish were real".

A book that does not actually exist is the sort of literary tease that I associate with Italo Calvino and Jorge Luis Borges, and these authors do both appear on that list of fictional books that appear only within another book.

Wikipedia also has a list "of fictional books that appear within literature" - a much longer list, which includes (for instance) titles within Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin, and some of the many books mentioned within the Douglas Adams Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series (noting that The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is itself fictional!).

Fans of Janet Frame's Living in the Maniototo might remember 'the Watercress novel' that features in the narrative. It is a manuscript that is being lugged around by its author.

Janet Frame lugged around a few manuscripts in her time, that she occasionally mentioned to other people, but for reasons of her own never published in her lifetime.

She used to talk about "The Goose Bath", about "Towards Another Summer", and about "Gorse is Not People".

She also talked about "the novel I wrote in France".

When we (Frame's executors) first read the manuscript referred to by Janet Frame (to us and to others) as "the novel I wrote in France", it was quite obvious that this novel could possibly be seen as a manifestation of the fictional "Watercress novel". It was, after all, about a Watercress Family.

The manuscript was untitled (or so we at first thought). For a while, we considered calling it 'The Watercress Novel', but that didn't seem quite right. That was a description, not a title. And in any case, the new novel had a life of its own. It was a superbly written self-contained piece that deserved to stand in its own right - even though it did have a fascinating intertextual relationship with the later Living in the Maniototo. It is a more minor work than the masterpiece Maniototo, although reviewers are discovering that Memorial does have greater depths than a superficial reading might indicate. It's funny, and easy to read, but it is more than just a footnote or an appendix.

Fortuitously we came across a journal in the archives that Janet Frame had kept while she was writing the Watercress novel. In it, she expressed her wish to call the novel she wrote in France 'In the Memorial Room'. And so it was.

Arguably, you can now read the fictional 'Watercress novel'! In the Memorial Room was first published in 2013 to stunning reviews in Australia, USA and New Zealand.

Text Publishing have this month released a paperback Text Classics edition of In the Memorial Room.

It is all very 'Janet Frame'. I am sure she enjoyed planning this surprise for us.

A box of presentation copies arrives. Exciting!

Some Reviews of In the Memorial Room

‘Not just a brilliant novel but a considered and poignant posthumous literary act, a curtain call by one of the world’s greatest authors…A deeply funny book.’ Weekend Australian

'Frame’s sentences are marvels, winding like narrow alleys through hill towns: They open spectacular vistas. Brilliant.’ Kirkus Reviews

‘A deliciously mischievous piece of fun, this is sharp social satire, ruthless in its mockery of literary pretension.’ Caroline Baum, Booktopia

 'a formidable work. It is also amusing, satirical, poetic and provocative - a real joy to read.’ Sunday Star Times

In the Memorial Room is filled with terrifyingly beautiful reflections on how writing books (and even reading them) can feel like digging your own grave. It also serves as a sly warning to those of us who obsessively cherish the works of dead writers—even writers as good as Janet Frame. Watch out! The death you memorialize may well be your own.’ New York Times Book Review

‘Delightful, funny and profound.’ Metro Magazine (NZ)

'Reading this is like finding an unwrapped gift long-hidden at the back of the wardrobe. The novel is quite unlike anything else Frame penned, yet she is recognisable in every pore of every sentence and of every word. Her love of language is infectious and so, too, is her sense of humour.’ NZ Herald
 On the shelves now, in New Zealand and Australia. A new classic.


Sunday, August 23, 2015

"put aside the light holiday novels"

(Polish translation of Faces in the Water)
Janet Frame
Replika 2015
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Replika (2015)
  • Language: Polish
  • ISBN-10: 8376744542
  • ISBN-13: 978-8376744544
  • Shipping Weight: 11 ounces
    Some reviews of Twarze w wodzie (in Polish!):
    "essential reading"
    "beautiful language"
    Goodreads Reviews of Faces in the Water (In English)
    Virago Modern Classics edition
    introduced by Hilary Mantel

    Arts Festival "fast and furious" ~ Janet Frame

    Wellington newspaper The Dominion Post is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its founding paper The Evening Post by publishing a commemorative volume (pictured).
    One of the items in the book concerns the staging of New Zealand's first International Arts Festival in Wellington in 1986. The programme included a Readers and Writers Week attended by Janet Frame who is quoted by the paper as saying:
    "It's marvellous, it's fast and furious but it probably can't all be absorbed. You take in as much as you can then go home and dilute it like a soft drink."
    ~ Janet Frame (at the Wellington Arts Festival, 1986)
    At the Arts Festival Janet Frame read to a crowd of 2000 people, and was given a standing ovation:
    "The festival performance, like her appearance at the Christchurch Festival two years before, was a considerable success. ‘Some 2000 people turned up to hear Frame read [from Intensive Care], a task she had not relished, but accomplished with great style and expression,’ the New Zealand Listener reported. Every seat in the spacious Renouf Foyer at the Michael Fowler Centre was taken, and additional patrons lined the walls two or three feet deep. Again, she took confidence from a good performance, and from the standing ovation that it produced."
    (Michael King, Wrestling with the Angel: A Life of Janet Frame)
    (NB: Janet Frame's use of the idiomatic expression "fast and furious" preceded the first film in the mega-famous car racing movie franchise The Fast and the Furious (2001) by five years. Arguably that particular expression has these days become inextricably bound up with the Fast & Furious pop culture phenomenon.)

    Saturday, August 22, 2015

    "an absolute masterclass in short story writing"

    In this Bloomsbury Academic manual on short story writing, Tania Hershman provides a very close and perceptive reading of Janet Frame's story 'Between My Father and the King'. She concludes:
    "It's an absolute master class in short story writing".
    It is an exquisite, classically perfect, short story, and Hershman's crystal clear analysis does its many attributes justice in this chapter which would be useful to students and writers - and critics.
    Tania Hershman, 'Close Reading of "Between My Father and the King" by Janet Frame', 220-231, in Writing Short Stories: A Writers' & Artists' Companion by Courttia newland and Tania Hershman, Bloomsbury Academic 2015.

    Between My Father & the King Counterpoint USA - Boston Globe Review

    Happy Birthday Janet @ WORD ChCh 2014

    It's nearly Janet Frame's birthday again (she was born on the 28th of August 1924) and every year her estate marks the date in some meaningful way. Janet Frame was very much 'into' birthdays and special occasions.
    I've been thinking about our celebrations for her birthday last year. A big highlight was the tribute event 'Happy Birthday, Janet' held by the WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival. The Director of the Christchurch Festival Rachael King and her committee invited me to pay tribute to Janet's life and work on her 90th Birthday, along with three Canterbury writers - Tusiata Avia, Bernadette Hall and Owen Marshall - by reading favourite pieces from Janet's work and speaking briefly about what her writing had meant for us.
    It was an enlightening and varied session. The timing was incredibly difficult for me as I had just that week attended my brother's funeral. Fortunately the writing of Janet Frame offers much to sustain those grappling with grief - it's a subject she knew well and explored deeply.
    Here is a link to a report of the session posted on the Christchurch City Libraries Blog.

    George Braziller's Memoir

    Janet Frame's first American publisher George Braziller has just published a memoir - at the age of 99!

    My copy arrived this week and I have enjoyed perusing George's tantalisingly brief vignettes about some of the many fascinating people he has met over a long career, and the books he has published as a legendary New York Independent publisher.

    I last met George in person in the year 2000 when I accompanied my aunt Janet Frame on a month-long trip to the United States. We had a marvellous time at some of George's favourite haunts in New York and on Long Island. He and Janet were very fond of each other and they made the most of what turned out to be their last few outings together. They were clearly very comfortable in each other's company and had a long history and friendship. On one poignant occasion the three of us went for a walk along the beautiful and wild Sagaponack Beach, that might seem like an isolated New Zealand beach were it not for the sight of the roofs of the huge mansions located behind the sand dunes.

    George and Janet found a sunny sheltered spot where they sat down next to each other on the sand against a wind break fence, talking and reminiscing, and I went down to the seashore for my first encounter with the Atlantic Ocean. The water was dark and blue and cold, and I strolled along and stared at it for a long time before returning to the two old friends, who had peacefully fallen asleep leaning against each other while also looking out at the ocean.

    Time spent with George always involved listening to his fascinating anecdotes about some of the very famous people he had known. I remember Janet and I both exhorted him to write his memoirs to get those stories down on paper. He didn't see then how he could find the time (he was still - in his late 80s - very involved in the running of his publishing firm), and he was also diffident about his skill as a story teller on paper, so it's good to know that he has finally been persuaded to produce this record of his own life.

    There are a couple of pages about Janet Frame in the memoir, naturally, including the well known story about George's fortuitous rescue of Janet's first novel Owls Do Cry from his 'slush pile'. He read the battered copy of her New Zealand-published novel on a whim, and was from then on smitten with her writing and determined to publish her work in America.

    Of course from the New York perspective, Janet Frame's book in the slush pile was an 'unsolicited manuscript' (having been sent by Janet Frame's London literary agent Patience Ross of A.M. Heath via their New York sub-agent Carl Brandt); but the text George read was a highly acclaimed work already regarded by many as 'The Great New Zealand Novel', that was also soon to be published in the UK and Germany. But the USA was a hard place for a writer from the 'colonies' to break into (still is!), and it was a combination of luck and Braziller's impeccable taste in literature, that first introduced Janet Frame to her American readership.

    Janet was always grateful for George's faithfulness and belief in her work, although their long professional relationship was not without its tensions: Janet had complaints to make, that George notes were always on "green paper", while those letters on white or pink paper were more friendly:

    "I was always on guard when letters on green paper arrived." 

    This colour coding is easily explained by anyone who understands that Janet Frame used green paper for her writing work; it was a habit she had acquired from Frank Sargeson who believed that the green hue was easier on the eyes for extended typing periods. So Janet's work letters - that might include her protests about the many typographical errors in Braziller's editions or the poor distribution of her books - were typed on green paper. The friendlier messages came on white or pink paper because they were not strictly work-associated.

    George Braziller and Janet Frame in Central Park, New York (Fall 2000)
    Photograph by Pamela Gordon

    Friday, August 7, 2015

    Ein Meisterwerk des 20. Jahrhunderts

    (Owls Do Cry)
    by Janet Frame
    New paperback edition DTV January 2016
    Janet Frame's first novel Owls Do Cry (1957) is to be published early next year in another new German edition.
    Owls Do Cry currently has the status in New Zealand of 'Great Kiwi Classic' and is continually being reprinted and translated and appearing in new editions here and around the world.
    Some recent/current editions:
    German (hardback, 2012)
     Australia/New Zealand


    Thursday, August 6, 2015

    "Ich brauche Parmesan!"

    It's Janet Frame's week on the German Kitchen Calendar. There's a quote from the German edition of her novel Living in the Maniototo (Auf dem Maniototo) and a recipe using Parmesan cheese.

    I blogged earlier about the Arche Calendars. They are so beautifully designed with apt literary quotations, illustrations and recipes.

    Auf dem Maniototo was published in a new edition by CH Beck in 2013. It is also available as an e-book.

    Wednesday, August 5, 2015

    Auckland rare book auction

    I notice there's a collection of Janet Frame editions for sale, some of them signed, at an upcoming rare book auction in Auckland. It's always worth checking the provenance of any celebrity signature, but as some of the items in the catalogue are attributed to the collection of Peggy and Bill Tramposch, who were friends of Janet's, these offerings look pretty reliable!

     a snippet from the catalogue
    The auction is at noon on Wednesday the 19th of August, in Auckland, New Zealand.
    For further information see the Art & Object website and download their pdf catalogue:


    Monday, August 3, 2015

    A Japanese Lagoon

    The Lagoon and Other Stories by Janet Frame has been translated into Japanese and published by Hakusuisha (2014) as part of their world Classics series.

    Saturday, August 1, 2015

    NZ Poetry Day 2015: Janet Frame's birthday


    NZ Screenings of AN ANGEL AT MY TABLE this month

    Newly digitised Kiwi film classics are being shown on the big screen in selected theatres throughout New Zealand. Janet Frame's birthday month of AUGUST is the month to view the adaptation of her autobiography AN ANGEL AT MY TABLE directed by Jane Campion.

    The August deadline

    Photo by Karen 'Daisy' Day, 1983

    "I have a private quirk in connection with my writing - I like to finish a novel before my birthday, as if perhaps the birthday were only another day for deathday."

    ~ Janet Frame to Bill Brown, April 1970.