Ko Whitireia te maunga
Ko Porirua te moana
Ko Ngāti Toa te iwi
Ko Whitireia te Kura Matatini
Nau mai, haere mai, hoki mai – a warm welcome to 4th Floor Literary Journal2010.
I am delighted to once again be invited to bring together writing from the Whitireia creative writing programme students, tutors and mentors. As with other years, when I started to write this introduction, I revelled in the chance to read through all the selections again, but this time as a hyper-linked whole, as a whānau. This is because at this point, although the site isn’t live or published yet, I have the link, so I get to browse at my leisure, skipping from one text to another, reading through alphabetically with the ‘Next’ and ‘Previous’ buttons, selecting particular authors or choosing texts by their titles. It is, without a doubt, my favourite moment in this whole process – like wandering through your favourite art gallery after hours, no staff, no public, no pressing engagements, nothing but you and the creations you love, hanging out.
It is also, for me, one of the most interesting aspects of publishing anthologies online. In spite of my deep respect for the printed page, I’ve grown to love the way the online environment allows me slightly more control over these things. Sure, you can open a book to any page you want, but they’re still all connected to the spine. I guess having the power to make screens and their texts appear and disappear in any order I choose appeals to the latent collage artist in me as much as to the reader.
As I write this I am in Iowa City in the US, about to wind up a residency that’s seen 38 writers from 32 different countries spend three months here at the University of Iowa’s International Writing Programme. Perhaps more than in other years then, because I’m listening to and reading writing from many different countries at the moment, I have been reminded what a world-class bunch of writers we have in New Zealand. Since I first received their work, these 4th Floor authors have impressed me. The writing’s lush imagery andfilmic slices of life have stayed in my mind all year, some richly mysterious, some which make the mundane magic again. There’s no shortage of technical skill, of course, but more affecting for me have been the surprises and finales, the twists and flips of character, language and languages – in other words, howeloquent and alive the work is. If I can stretch a weary traveller’s simile a little too far, some of this writing has been, for me, like being taken by an entertaining and erudite tour-guide through the landscape of the New Zealand imagination, as much as through the landscape of New Zealand itself both past and present.
There are immensely memorable vignettes among this year’s offerings, as well as homages to moments of unexpected delight. This selection hums with what is left artfully unsaid, as much as what is said – and in fantastically fresh ways.
This year’s 4th Floor is also well-populated with vivid, real-life characters, offering glimpses into their lives and their complex relationships – both with each other and with themselves. There are characters here whose personal pain is drawn so skilfully that we hardly know how or why we are affected so deeply at the end of our reading. There are folks here I could have grown up with, people who made me laugh out loud, and some who have become so real for me in the reading and re-reading that I feel I have shared with them a significant, poignant moment of intimate friendship, love, grief, or some kind of deeper resolution.
Many thanks to Whitireia publishing students Sophie Fraser, Kimberley Davis and Chris Yee for their work in copy-editing, content-managing and publishing this site, and to Rachel Lawson who wrangled us all so brilliantly. The team also thanks Pip Byrne, Lynn Davidson, Mary-Jane Duffy, Tim Renner, Stephen Porteners, Jo Prestwood, Cemone Reti, Lian Hathaway and Tamati Kaa for their ongoing support of this project. Ngā mihi mahana ki a koutou katoa.
For myself, I am very grateful to Whitireia New Zealand for giving me the opportunity to read and share work from these emerging and established talents. I know you’ll hear much more from them in future, but for now, step into that sparkling light, listen as the doors hush closed behind you . . . Now turn, and press the number ‘4’.