Moving Words.

Literary Exchange in New Zealand

New Zealand is this year’s Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Sixtyseven New Zealand writers will feature in five full days of literary events at the Fair and in other events around Frankfurt. Meanwhile, readers in New Zealand have been getting to know some of Germany’s authors, both on the page and in person. A mobile writer’s residency, German-flavoured Sport and a poetic Transit are just some of the projects celebrating translation and literary exchange.
Changing Places
As publisher of Victoria University Press and founding editor of leading New Zealand literary journal Sport, Fergus Barrowman has been publishing the best of New Zealand’s writing for nearly three decades. This year he branched out into contemporary German-language literature.
‘One of the happy side effects of New Zealand’s Guest of Honour role at the 2012 Frankfurt Book Fair has been getting to know contemporary German literature. Like many readers who grew up with Penguin Modern Classics and other series, I had a pretty good grounding, but most of my reading time in recent years has been devoted to the young New Zealand writers I work with on a daily basis.
I began with recently translated books by Juli Zeh, Jenny Erpenbeck, Thomas Pletzinger and others. Next, I was inspired by Michael Krüger’s generous offer to include a special feature on New Zealand poetry in the prestigious literary magazine Akzente, published by Carl Hanser Verlag. That issue, featuring poems by Bill Manhire, Tusiata Avia, Hinemoana Baker, Jenny Bornholdt, Kate Camp, Glenn Colquhoun and Louise Wallace, translated by Ron Winkler, appears in October.
My literary magazine Sport has appeared regularly since 1988, and most of New Zealand’s emerging writers have appeared in its pages. Sport 40, however, is the first to include a substantial feature on another literature. With the help of Sally-Ann Spencer, who was amazingly generous with her time and expertise, I read widely in online magazines and from sample translations, and contacted leading translators to find out which German-language writers they most wanted to translate.
The resulting 133 pages feature twenty-three writers and go far beyond famous names and mainstream genres. Certainly there are some senior writers there, but most will be entirely new to readers in English. The range of the writing, from realist through experimental fiction, poetry and literary essays, is consistent with Sport’s cutting-edge reputation. I am confident that readers who start from one part of the magazine and move to the other will find many unexpected echoes and connections.’
Sport 40 (ed. Fergus Barrowman and Sally-Ann Spencer) is available in print and as an e-book from There is also a Kindle edition.
Literature on Tour
‘It is approaching April and the leaves are beginning to take on their autumn colours, one by one. The further south you go, the colder it gets. Less familiar: the angle at which the moon’s light falls on the earth...’
Earlier this year, German writer Inka Parei crisscrossed the ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’ in a campervan as part of a mobile writer’s residency created by the Goethe-Institut. You can read her impressions in German, English (tr. Katy Derbyshire) and Te Reo Mãori (tr. Te Tumatakuru O’Connell) at
© Ulrike Rosenfeld/
Goethe-Institut New Zealand
‘Penguin Crossing’: State Highway 6, West Coast, South Island
© Ulrike Rosenfeld/ Goethe-Institut New Zealand
‘100’: The road to Gillespie’s Beach, West Coast, South Island

Transit of Venus Poetry Exchange
In 1769, one of the first encounters between Europeans and Mãori took place when Captain Cook arrived in Tolaga Bay, on New Zealand’s East Coast, after observing the Transit of Venus in Tahiti. On 6 June 2012 three German and three New Zealand poets travelled to Tolaga Bay to observe another Transit. In October, they will reconvene at Berlin’s Literaturwerkstatt to translate poems written in response to their experiences, and will perform them at the Frankfurt Book Fair and other locations in Germany. ‘Antipodean’ explores the reversals of cultural assumptions that may take place when changing hemispheres.
I am the wrong
way round, my north,
your south, my up,
your down, your Krone
my Crown. My dark side,
your light, my loose,
your tight, your arse
my face, your paradise
my place. My trees
line your sleep. Your sleep
leaves my trees. I sail a
counter-clockwise water,
your moon’s a
measurable daughter.
It’s your gift, my loan.
Your terror cove, my home.
Your page, my mouth.
My north, your south.
Chris Price
The six participating poets were Uwe Kolbe, Brigitte Oleschinski and Ulrike Almut Sandig from Germany, and Hinemoana Baker, Glenn Colquhoun and Chris Price from New Zealand.
© Ulrike Rosenfeld/
Goethe-Institut New Zealand
The German ‘Transit’ poets in
New Zealand
Two Transit of Venus performances will take place at the New Zealand pavilion in Frankfurt:
Fri 12 Oct 4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Followed by Happy Hour with a performance by Te Matarae I Orehu / Ria Hall & Puawai Cairns
Sat 13 Oct 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

This article was compiled with the assistance of Sally-Ann Spencer, a German-English literary translator who is currently writing a PhD at Victoria University.
Inka Parei’s residency was organised by the Goethe-Institut New Zealand; the publication of Sport 40 was supported by Creative New Zealand and the Goethe-Institut New Zealand; Akzente has received grants from Creative New Zealand and from the New Zealand Centre for Literary Translation; the Transit of Venus Poetry Exchange was organised by the Goethe-Institut New Zealand, the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University, the Literaturwerkstatt Berlin, the New Zealand Ministry of Culture and Heritage, and the Publishers Association of New Zealand.