“I am tired of words, and literature is an old couch stuffed with fleas,” wrote poet, playwright and author Derek Walcott.
The Hasting Festival of Writers is the perfect antidote to literary burnout-be it writers’ or readers’. Organized by Keith Thorsen of Creative Hastings and numerous collaborators, it features some of New Zealand’s and Australia’s best writers in a “deliberate mix of wine, food and words.” It also offers something that Derek Walcott had perhaps been missing: pleasure…or as Thorsen says, “a really good time.”
Eight distinguished authors will come to town for a total of four events, March 20 – 22. And pleasure is indeed the operative word. The Taste of Pleasure at Clearview Estate launches the Festival of Friday evening, March 20. Wine writer John Saker and author and Dish magazine editor Catherine Bell will share their professional passions while guiding audiences through tastes and sips from Clearview’s award winning kitchen and cellar door.
A Night of Pleasure with Te Mata Estate takes place the following evening, March 21, at the Hawke’s Bay Opera House. Six writers will read from their works and converse with the audience over wine and nibbles. Included are CK Stead, probably New Zealand’s most celebrated man of letters; Michele Leggot, current NZ Poet Laureate; Sara Quigley, columnist, poet and fiction writer; Martin Edmond, award wining fiction, non-fiction, poetry and screen-play writer; Peter Wells, novelist, short story author and film maker; and Roger McDonald, eminent Australian novelist.
“It’s the sort of thing where you can bring your friends…have some drinks. The room is small enough so everyone is close up. People can connect,” says Thorsen, who for many years has been involved in producing local literary events. Says writer Kevin Ireland, who participated in the 2007 Hastings Literary Festival, “The accent is on sharing books, words and experiences with pleasure-and the audiences are simply terrific. I don’t know of any other similar literary events in New Zealand that work better.” Novelist Jenny Pattrick agrees. The 2007 event was “one of the best I’ve ever attended…a real buzz.”
Additional daytime events round out the literary weekend. At the Hastings Library on Saturday afternoon, March 21, Roger McDonald, Peter Wells and Martin Edmond will talk about the importance of place. Admission for this event is free of charge. And on Sunday, March 22, CK Stead and Roger McDonald will read from and talk about their work during a relaxed brunch at St. George’s Estate Winery.