Sunday, November 4, 2012

Creative Giants of Palmerston North

A website was launched recently to celebrate the many creative individuals who were born at or have lived in the central North Island city of Palmerston North:

The website quite rightly includes Janet Frame as one of the artists who have at one time or another made Palmerston North their home:

The Written Word - Janet Frame

It's a controversial enterprise (as I know to my personal cost), celebrating your tall poppies in New Zealand. Either you have left somebody off the list, or somebody on the list needs to be challenged and/or cut down to size.

I noticed this Twitter exchange, which is a tidy example of both responses:

Here are the writerly creative giants of the manawatu. Where's Sarah Laing?David Geary? Pah.

Sarah Laing
& they forgot James Brown, and he wrote that poem about coming from Palmerston North!
OMG, yes! JAMES BROWN! He's put PN on the map with that poem! + He was on Kim Hill's 'Playing Favourites'. Now that's famous!
Sarah Laing
and Fiona Farrell lived in Palmy for at least 20 years & Janet Frame, I dunno, 2 years?
Gah, Fiona Farrell! Yes! Oh man, I'm going to be filling out a lot of nomination forms.


For the record, Janet Frame did not live in Palmerston North for only "2 years" although this comment is a great example of the way in which some New Zealanders seem to feel they can just make up any old fact about Janet Frame, without checking.
Janet Frame moved from Levin to Shannon (which is near Palmerston North) in 1988, and in 1989 she bought and moved into a flat in Alexander Street, Palmerston North. In 1990 Frame moved into the Dahlia Street house where she lived until November 1995.
A full six years in Palmerston North, and eight if you think Shannon is close enough to count.
In fact if Frame had only lived in 'Palmy' for two years it might still have been a significant enough length of time to have created waves in the local district, given her celebrity. 
Two years were certainly long enough for some people to freeze Janet Frame in time in Frank Sargeson's Takapuna hut for ever! (Frame boarded with Frank Sargeson for less than two years but many dullards can't seem to imagine any life for her outside the heavily mythologised straightjacket of his mischievous portrayal of Janet as "the mad girl in my garden'. It's as if her literary successes before she met Frank, and after she left New Zealand, never happened.)
PS: I would agree that the list of authors associated with Palmerston North could well include more names, for example the poet James Brown who wrote the poem 'I come from Palmerston North'. I'm sure I've seen another poem by James Brown in which he notes that Janet Frame was also a resident of that city. In the poem, as I remember, Frame is almost knocked over by a bicycle.

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