Saturday, September 11, 2021

Remembering Erica van Acker, WTC 9/11

Remembering Erica van Acker who died at the World Trade Center 20 years ago today, on September 11, 2001. Erica was a close friend of Janet Frame's friend Barbara Wersba who lived in Sag Harbor, Long Island, New York.
 When Janet Frame and I visited the Hamptons in late 2000, Barbara introduced us to Erica and her partner, and we enjoyed several dinner parties and outings in their company during our stay. Erica was an excellent chef and a stimulating conversationalist. We had a lot of fun and a lot of laughs. Janet was always much more relaxed when she was away from New Zealand where so many people unfortunately treated her like a 'freak' (her own words). New York is anything but narrow-minded, and Janet loved it there.


Erica had told me she worked part time at the WTC and so at first I hoped that she hadn't been there on the day of the attacks. Sadly, we soon heard from Barbara that Erica had lost her life there.

The injustice of this sentence in Erica's NYT obituary (below) is heartbreaking: 
"She has no immediate survivors." In that era same-sex partners of victims were seldom officially acknowledged.

In 2012 while on a trip to New York I made a pilgrimage to the memorial at Ground Zero and paid my respects to Erica. 
(Photo: Christine White)

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

From the Archives: Burns Fellowship Reunion 2018

TODAY IN HISTORY: The Robert Burns Fellowship 60th Reunion 


Tributes to Absent Fellows

At the 2018 Burns reunion I appeared on Janet Frame's behalf at an event honouring the deceased Fellows. It was a pleasure and privilege to appear with the other friends and family members who took part in this moving tribute. Each of the representatives of absent fellows gave a short speech and read an example of the author's work. I read Janet Frame's short story 'Between my Father and the King.'

"It was such a treat to have these lovely souls read at our Tribute to Absent Fellows event on Sunday at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. They did the 17 absent Burns Fellows right proud..." (Dunedin Writers & Reader Festival).
Here is a list of the deceased fellows and those who saluted them. Publisher Rachel Scott was the MC:
40th Reunion 1998
I also attended some of the events at an earlier Burns reunion, this time with Janet Frame herself, when Janet joined the other former Burns Fellows at the 40th Reunion in Dunedin in 1998. 
(Photo: Reg Graham)

What is the Burns Fellowship?

The Burns Fellowship is alive and well and as relevant and prestigious as ever. The current 2021 Burns Fellow is Becky Manawatu whose 2019 novel Auē  Makaro Press) won the 2020 Hubert Church Award prize for Best First Book and was also the overall winner of the 2020 Acorn Prize for Fiction at the Ockham New Zealand book Awards.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Siobhan Harvey receives 2021 Janet Frame Literary Trust Award

Saturday 28 August 2021
2021 Janet Frame Literary Trust Award for Poetry goes to Siobhan Harvey

Gift for Auckland Poet on Janet Frame’s Birthday 

The Janet Frame Literary Trust is delighted to announce the recipient

of the 2021 Janet Frame Literary Trust Award for Poetry.  Auckland

poet Siobhan Harvey will receive $5,000 from a fund set up by Janet

Frame for the purpose of encouraging New Zealand authors “of poetry

and imaginative prose”. The biennial award is timed to commemorate

Janet Frame’s birth date on the 28th of August. Janet Frame was

famously saved from an imminent lobotomy when a doctor noticed that

she had won a literary prize. She received many grants and prizes over

her long career and wanted to give back to her fellow writers.


Siobhan Harvey is originally from England and made New Zealand her

home 20 years ago. She is the author of eight books of poetry and non-fiction.

Her latest volume of poetry and creative non-fiction, ‘Ghosts’ (Otago

University Press 2021), explores themes of migration, homelessness and

family trauma. The UK Poetry Archive describes her poetry as “that of

a quester – a voyager — meditating on separation and discovery, on

time lost and time regained, on the tug of distant familial

connections, and the new global connectivity which means never being

out-of-touch.” Harvey is a lecturer in creative writing at the

Auckland University of Technology and her work is published widely in

New Zealand and international journals and anthologies.


Siobhan Harvey said that she was humbled “to be honoured in a legacy

left by New Zealand's foremost author” as well as finding herself the

recipient of an award given previously to writers whose work she

admires, such as Peter Olds, Tusiata Avia, David Eggleton, Catherine

Chidgey and Alison Wong.


 “In this fraught time of a global pandemic and in an era in which the

financial earnings of writers in New Zealand are below the minimum

wage, this bequest allows me to fund writing time I would not have

been able to afford otherwise.”


Authorised by Pamela Gordon, Chair, Janet Frame Literary Trust


More Info on Siobhan Harvey:

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Planting a tree at Janet Frame House

Chloe Searle (Chair of the Janet Frame House Trust), Alison Albiston (founding house trustee and expert gardener), Pamela Gordon (Chair of the Janet Frame Literary Trust).

It's winter and the Janet Frame House is closed to the public until spring. A great time to plant trees though! I was honoured to be invited to help plant a cherry tree at 56 Eden Street, Oamaru which was Janet Frame's childhood home.
My late mother June had left a list of the trees that used to be in the backyard of the house. Thanks to a generous gift the house trust is able this year to plant a cherry, an apple and an apricot tree. 
Planting the heritage cherry was poignant for me as it is the 13th anniversary this week of Mum's death.
While in Oamaru I also visited the Frame family grave where Mum and Janet are both buried, and left flowers.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

'Meeting a Character': a short story by Janet Frame

Meeting a Character

A short story by Janet Frame

First published in JANET FRAME IN HER OWN WORDS (Penguin Books, 2011)

I was drinking coffee in a place in downtown Whanganui when I was approached by a middle-aged man who insisted that we knew each other. He sat opposite me without even a polite, May I sit here? and when I denied knowing him he smiled,
‘Of course you do. Remember Maniototo?’
He was referring to a novel I’d written. I wondered if perhaps he had written to me about the book and perhaps I had mislaid the letter and not answered it.
‘I’m not very good at answering letters, I’m afraid.’
‘You don’t remember, then?’
He said his name.
I repeated it. Certainly it was familiar. Then I remembered,
‘You mean you’re . . .’
‘Of course. I don’t know why novelists imagine that as soon as they finish with a character and the book is written and published, that character vanishes or dies. It was fashionable, once, to quote “In dreams begin responsibilities”.’
‘Oh yes,’ I said. ‘Everyone quoted that vogue phrase. But what do you expect me to do now you’re in Whanganui?’
‘Nothing at all. It was by chance I saw you. But aren’t you curious to find out what I’ve been doing since you last thought and wrote about me?’
‘Of course I’m curious.’
‘Then let me satisfy your curiosity,’ he said, ‘in a way that I know would suit you.’
I looked questioningly at him.
‘Yes. I observed and knew you, also, and I’ve known that you’ve been longing to write one of those stories where the author meets a narrator who then takes over, and day by day (in a long train journey, or over a season of several days as guest in a house — I admit that in the modern age there are fewer opportunities for prolonged narration — perhaps even during a walk of the Milford Track or a Christmas holiday by the beach — O well, however it may arise), the story is told, the mystery solved, whereupon the author and the narrator part company and most likely neither sees the other again until, just by chance, a similar incident of meeting is repeated, where once again the author, curious to know of events since the last meeting, conducive to storytelling, listens once again — in a train, around a fire, on the sundeck of an evening overlooking the beach — perhaps that is the setting you would choose? There’s no escaping a story, you know . . .’
I agreed. The time was between Christmas and New Year, with Victoria Street a waste of tinsel and unbought Christmas gifts gathering dust and insect spray in the shop windows. I had no train journey in mind, nor had I planned to walk the Milford Track, nor was I cut off by storms, nor had I a bach by the sea where I could sit on the sundeck of an evening, looking out over the bay, and listening to the narrator.
‘Perhaps you’d like to come to my place for the weekend?’ I suggested. ‘I’ve a spare room. And perhaps one evening we can go to the pavilion on the beach at Castlecliff and sit watching the sea while you continue the story? It’s the nearest I have to that train journey across the Steppes or even across the Central Australian Desert or even the fourteen-hour journey between Auckland and Wellington.’
He accepted my invitation. He did know as well as I did, how I had dreamed of writing the kind of story he described, the story with the classic treatment and theme, the set piece, like a dance or movement of music.
There was one difficulty, however. Although I did recall his name, I had no idea of his character and actions. I therefore gave him my address, suggesting that he arrive about half-past five that evening (Friday), and everything would be ready for his stay. I then finished my coffee and hurried to the bus-stop in Ridgway Street just in time to catch a Castlecliff bus on the Alma Road or A route, and half an hour later I was home where my first action was to find a copy of Maniototo and look it up — so that later when he knocked on the door I at least knew something about him.

Serbian edition of Janet Frame's Autobiography


The translations of Janet Frame's work continue. Here is the Serbian omnibus edition of her three-volume autobiography AN ANGEL AT MY TABLE, published by Karpos Books.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Janet Frame's Faces in the Water chosen for VMC40 13

This was a wonderful tribute to Janet Frame's classic novel Faces in the Water, to be included in the 13 novels chosen by Virago Modern Classics to celebrate their 40th anniversary.

The anniversary edition, with an introduction by Hilary Mantel is still on sale around the world.

Books included in the VMC 40th anniversary series were: Frost in May by Antonia White; The Collected Stories of Grace PaleyFire from Heaven by Mary Renault; The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter; The Weather in the Streets by Rosamond Lehmann; Deep Water by Patricia Highsmith; The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West; Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston; Heartburn by Nora Ephron; The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy; Memento Mori by Muriel Spark; A View of the Harbour by Elizabeth Taylor; and Faces in the Water by Janet Frame

‘Janet Frame’s luminous words are the more precious because they were snatched from the jaws of the disaster of her early life 
. . . and yet to read her is no more difficult than breathing’ 
Hilary Mantel 

An Upgrade for Janet Frame's Website!

Official Website for Janet Frame

Upgraded and updated at last. Links available to the publisher websites and info pages for all Janet Frame's BOOKS IN PRINT (in English).

If you have been a previous visitor you may need to refresh your browser.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Six of the Best

There's a new 'Classic' edition of this popular NZ short story sampler edited by Bill Manhire and first published in 1989.
In this case you CAN tell a book from its cover: there are 6 stories each, from 6 major New Zealand authors.
The editor doesn't claim to have chosen the "best" stories for each writer (what headaches and arguments that would have led to!), rather he says he has "attempted to show individual range and development". All the stories are great, though.

The Janet Frame stories are:
Keel and Kool
The Reservoir 
The Bull Calf
You are Now Entering the Human Heart

Good to see 'Insulation' there. It is as relevant politically today as when first published. 'Solutions' is a personal favourite of mine and 'Human Heart' is one of Frame's most sought-after stories internationally for educational exam prep permissions and anthologies. It's a PERFECT subject for student essays.

Six by Six shouldn't just be thought of as a textbook though. As well as the guaranteed reading pleasure, looking through the titles of the stories, there's history as well as story on offer. This is where we have been. Where are we heading?

Saturday, May 22, 2021

From the Archives: Goose Lays Golden Egg (2008)


The Goose Bath achieves Premier New Zealand Gold Bestseller accreditation 


From the Booksellers New Zealand website: "Books become Premier New Zealand Bestsellers when they achieve outstanding sales within New Zealand. Top-selling New Zealand books are recognised with accreditation to four levels of success...The total sales within New Zealand for each book, across all editions, are verified and, once confirmed, the book becomes an officially accredited Premier New Zealand Bestseller. Only accredited Premier New Zealand Bestsellers can wear the official platinum, gold, silver and bronze seals."


We are especially delighted at this recognition of the strong sales for Janet Frame's second poetry volume, given that Janet Frame's first book of poetry, The Pocket Mirror, has been one of the best selling collections of poetry by a single author in New Zealand history, locally and internationally, but has never been sufficiently acknowledged as such. This and several other of Frame's titles, although they have also sold extremely well within New Zealand, for various reasons are either not officially recognised as bestsellers, or their level of accreditation does not adequately reflect their actual sales history. (This anomaly is due to a chequered publishing history involving multiple publishers including foreign publishers whose sales are not counted in New Zealand, and multiple editions, and the consequent difficulty of collating sales figures.)

Postscript: The Random House New Zealand edition of The Goose Bath was published in hardback and paperback and eventually sold just short of six thousand copies, therefore qualifying for accreditation as a Premier New Zealand Platinum bestseller but the scheme was discontinued shortly afterward.

The Goose Bath was published in Australia by Wilkins Farago.  The New Zealand and Australian editions are now out of print. In the UK the entire selection in The Goose Bath has been published by Bloodaxe Books in one volume along with a selection from The Pocket Mirror. This book is entitled Storms Will Tell: Selected Poems by Janet Frame and is available to purchase online.

From the Archives: Top Poetry Prize Presented Posthumously (July 2007)

Janet Frame wins the New Zealand Book Award for Poetry for the second time!

When Janet Frame died in January 2004 she had been unable to complete the arrangements to publish a book of poems she had been working on for some time. The compiling of The Goose Bath was taken over and completed after her death by her literary executors with the assistance of eminent poet Bill Manhire. Not long before her death, while Frame and Manhire were both visiting Gore to attend an event at the East Otago Museum, Janet Frame asked Bill Manhire if he would help with the selection of poems for the new book, which she had already named The Goose Bath. The work was a part time labour of love by the editors, fitted into the demands of teaching, travel, fellowships and other commitments. Two years later (January 2006) the book was finally at the printers, and as such it qualified for entry to the Montana NZ Book Awards, which had long allowed a period of grace of two years after an author's death during which a posthumously published book already in progress at the time of death, is eligible for nomination for an award category. This period of grace for a recently deceased author has been invoked before, most notably when the popular historian Dr Michael King won two posthumous cash prizes (including "Reviewer of the Year") after his untimely death. In 2007 two books by deceased authors were named as finalists in the Book awards: Janet Frame's The Goose Bath, and Cowboy Dog, a posthumously published novel by Nigel Cox, another sadly mourned author. Cowboy Dog went on to win a cash prize as a runner up in the Fiction category. 


Having been named as a finalist, Janet Frame then won the poetry category of the 2007 Montana New Zealand Book Awards for her collection, The Goose Bath, three years after her death. As she was a previous recipient of NZ Book Awards (twice for fiction, twice for non fiction, and twice for Book of the Year) the win confirmed her place as one of New Zealand's most versatile writers. Janet Frame's prize of $5,000 was used by the Janet Frame Literary Trust to benefit other New Zealand writers. 


The win for The Goose Bath was announced on Montana Poetry Day, 27 July 2007, and the award presented at a gala dinner on 30 July 2007. Montana New Zealand Book Awards judges’ convenor, Dr Paul Millar, says Frame’s edge is as we should expect, her use of inventive, imaginative and memorable language. ‘She steps lightly and precisely across the surface of the swamp of words… She is also highly original.’ 


Janet Frame's literary executor Pamela Gordon spoke about the win to Lynn Freeman on National Radio's Arts on Sunday (Sunday 29 July 2007). Gordon said that in her opinion the best thing about the posthumous recognition for the quality of her aunt's new poetry book was that the award would serve to remind New Zealanders that the famous author, who is a household name in their country, first became well known not because of her inspiring life story, but because she was quite simply a remarkably good writer. "I hope that the Montana publicity encourages some new Kiwi readers to look past the myths about Janet Frame and to pick up one of her books and find out for themselves why she was able to build such a huge reputation for her writing."

Friday, May 21, 2021

From the Archives: CK Stead Apologises to Janet Frame's estate (25 June 2010)


 CK Stead apologised for using Janet Frame's work without permission



"C K Stead, author of South-West of Eden, and its publisher, Auckland University Press, regret quoting from the work of Janet Frame without permission and apologise to the Janet Frame Literary Trust for doing so."


~ Auckland University Press Website, 

(retrieved 25 June 2010)

The apology was also published in the NZ Listener as a public notice.


A statement by Frame trustee Denis Harold was posted on the Janet Frame Literary Trust Web Page, June 25 2010:

CK Stead selectively quoted from a Janet Frame letter so that the meaning of the letter was seriously misrepresented. 


C K Stead has included an unpublished poem by Janet Frame, and other works by her, and quotes from her personal correspondence, all without permission, in his recent memoir South-West of Eden (2010). Stead also selectively quotes from a Janet Frame letter so that the meaning of the letter is seriously misrepresented. 


Stead has apologised for using Frame’s work without permission after her estate took legal proceedings to seek an injunction against him and his publisher, Auckland University Press. He also has agreed to exclude the unpublished poem from any future edition, and either restore a missing part of a sentence to the extract from the letter, or else exclude the letter entirely.


These are the main facts of the matter, but underlying them are the issues of motives and effects. Why does Stead use Frame’s work in this way, and how does his use of her work enhance his memoir? 


Stead uses two of Frame’s poems as a basis on which to make judgments about her, but he then denies the poems are unequivocally hers.


A memoir by its nature is emotional writing, an author having their say about their life and times, but nevertheless the reader expects honesty. 


Stead in his portrait of Frame, which is a major aspect of the last section of the memoir, uses all his rhetorical skills to create an atmosphere that will support his summing up of Frame as someone “who rejected the whole human order”, and whose work was “structureless, directionless”, which “offered not hope but a black hole”. (South-West of Eden, 2010).


The two Frame poems that Stead uses in order to carry out his ‘analysis’ of Frame are exceedingly minor works – one poem Frame chose never to publish and the other she later withdrew from publication (she removed it from subsequent editions of her poetry collection The Pocket Mirror). Where is the academic rigour in this use by Stead of trivial Frame works to represent what he claims are her failings as a person and a writer? Surely if he wanted to give a genuine estimation of Frame, he would have used work that truly represented her? 


But of course this is a memoir and not a critical work, so therefore ‘fair dealing’ for the purposes of criticism or review is not Stead’s intention. He wants to characterise Frame as childlike, nervous, and strange (“there was something intangible”), and interweave these observations with his demeaning comments on the two poems. 


Santie Cross


The unpublished Janet Frame poem that Stead has published without permission is derived almost word for word from the stream of consciousness prose poetry on the first page of Frame’s novel, Owls Do Cry. Frame, egged on by Frank Sargeson, recast this passage into a ‘hoax’ poem that she sent under the pseudonym ‘Santie Cross’ to a London literary magazine, which turned it down. Frame then chose never to publish the poem in that form. After her death her estate refused permission for the display of a manuscript of the poem in an exhibition curated by Jenny Bornholdt and Greg O’Brien, at the Turnbull Library in Wellington. Frame and her estate have always considered this ‘poem’ a curiosity piece, unpublishable unless explained within the context of its genesis. 


The poem is solely by Frame. She describes the story behind it in her autobiography (chapter 23 of the second volume, An Angel at My Table), as does Michael King in his biography of Frame (chapter 8). In neither book, tellingly, did Frame allow the poem to be published, either whole or in part.


Not only does Stead deny that his publication of this poem is an infringement of Janet Frame’s copyright, he has the effrontery to deny that the poem is Frame’s. On page 316 of his memoir, Stead claims that it was Sargeson who composed the poem by extracting lines from the opening pages (“shown to him” by Frame) of Owls Do Cry and typing them as a poem himself. The law firm representing Auckland University Press later reiterated this claim in a letter to the Frame estate’s lawyer, Rick Shera, on 21 May 2010. 


Stead found a copy of this poem at the Hocken Library in Dunedin pinned to a letter Sargeson had written to Charles Brasch. There is also a manuscript copy in Frame’s own papers, and there is a third typed copy (signed "Janet") in the Frank Sargeson papers at the Turnbull Library.


In reproducing the poem, Stead has introduced a typographical error. He has added the word 'the' to the line “it said to plant”, which he renders as “it said to the plant” thereby changing the word 'plant' from a verb to a noun and therefore serving to reinforce his allegation that the poem has “no structure, no shape”. Stead goes on to make the amazing leap from his dismissive judgment of the poem to the intellectually untenable conclusion that this off-the-cuff ‘hoax’ of a poem is a fair representation of Frame’s poetry, and that like this poem her work as a whole has “no structure, no shape”:


“It had no structure, no shape, but it was full of striking imagery and flashes of brilliance. That is what I thought; and I suppose, it is almost true to say, that is what I would go on thinking about the work of Janet Frame.” [page 315 of South-West of Eden]


But wait! We have already heard Stead’s claim that this poem is not the work of Janet Frame. Therefore, how can it represent her?


Our Town


To develop his thesis in regard to both Frame and her work, Stead then goes on to quote, without permission, from a Frame poem called 'Our Town'. This poem is composed of lines from poems by other poets, and is the result of a literary game similar to one played at Sargeson’s house. The poem was accidentally included in Frame’s only collection of poems published in her lifetime, The Pocket Mirror (1967), and in 1992 she withdrew it from subsequent editions because in itself the poem infringed the copyright of other authors. As of 2010 the poem 'Our Town' that Stead claims to be subject to 'fair dealing' "for the purposes of criticism or review" has been thus withdrawn from circulation and removed from Frame's canon by her own hand, for nearly 20 years.


'Our Town' is solely by Janet Frame. Stead acknowledges this in his 2002 book Kin of Place on page 275:


“she has taken [the first lines of poems] from what would have been, at a date prior to 1967, a modern anthology. The lines are managed, nudged, manoeuvred towards a recognisable Janet Frame statement about ‘our town’,”


But now in 2010, Stead amazingly claims that he, his wife and Sargeson had a hand in composing the poem. Again we see Stead’s attempt to blur ownership. And again we see the curious double-think, the contradiction, that if this is not unequivocally a Frame work then how can it represent Frame?


Stead quotes ten lines from 'Our Town' (he does not reproduce an entire passage but cobbles together several excerpts) and inserts this as evidence into his evolving pattern of innuendo, which climaxes with his observation that Frame was someone: 


“who rejected the whole human order, and whose work, structureless, directionless, brilliant, with flashes of genius, offered not hope but a black hole.” [page 318 of South-West of Eden]


Saying that Janet Frame “rejected the whole human order” is absurd, an insult to her memory, her family, her friends, to all who knew her and loved her, an insult to truth. Frame’s work is not “structureless, directionless”, as the countless scholarly studies of her work affirm, not to mention her growing international readership. The only black hole is that of envy and revenge, the black hole of being the last man standing, attempting the last word:


“when you’re writing about such a long time ago there is in a way the advantage that so many people are dead and can’t quarrel with your view” [Stead speaking to Chris Laidlaw on his “Sunday Morning” programme on Radio New Zealand National on Sunday May 16, 2010]


The Letter


Just a few pages from the end of his memoir, Stead performs his last act of turning Frame’s own work against her. Stead, by his use of selective quotes from a letter Frame wrote to him creates the impression that she confirmed his claim that her story 'The Triumph of Poetry' was “targeted” at him.


Stead selectively quotes from the letter, leaving out vital parts so that he represents Frame as saying the opposite of what she is really saying. 


This is the final sentence from Stead’s extraction from the letter:


But I want you and Kay to understand that I’ve never felt any malice towards you.


Stead actually ends his extraction midway through a sentence (and in the process changes a comma into a full-stop). He leaves out Frame’s categorical statement that the story is not about Stead and his wife. This is what Frame wrote: 


But I want you and Kay to understand that I’ve never felt any malice towards you, that the poet of the story is a certain elderly Scotsman who is now living in Dunedin, dividing his time between his garden and Shakespeare.


Not only does Stead use Frame’s work without permission, but, Janet Frame’s estate contends, also infringes Frame’s moral right (that continues for twenty years after death) not to have a statement falsely attributed to her.


Janet Frame’s estate initiated legal proceedings against Stead and his publisher, who have agreed to apologise for using Frame’s work without permission. They have also agreed to exclude the unpublished poem from any further edition. Also, if Stead wishes to continue quoting from the letter, he has agreed to include the omitted clause.


Denis Harold


Janet Frame Literary Trust

25 June 2010


See news item: "CK Stead settles dispute with Frame's trust"

 New Zealand Herald 25 June 2010