A Love Letter from Jeffrey Paparoa Holman – From Chaucer to Hera Lindsay Bird

Go into your local bookshop & write a love letter, and be in to win $500 in Book Tokens! 


Bookshops and libraries have been part of my life for as long as I can remember reading: primary school libraries first of all, then the local dairy in Blackball with its westerns and Pan Piper war stories at 1/6d; the tiny lending library down the road at the Workingmen’s Club and Mutual School of Arts, serviced by the National Library Service van every few months. Our house was a house of reading: only the radio, one station, 3YZ and no television. How privileged I was.

At high school in Greymouth, the library was a step up from this and later, the local bookshops: Miss Brislane’s and Kilgours, even Woolworths with their bargain bins, hallowed emporiums where I began to build up my never-ending private library with funds, goodness only knows how, my cash-strapped mother provided. I’ve never stopped, gladly (and sadly, there are no treatment centres for biblioholia).

A return trip home to the land of my birth in the 1980s had me goggled-eyed at the shelf-stacked bookshops of Albion: the new, the secondhand, even a whole Welsh town (Hay-on-Wye) devoted to bookshops of every stripe. A six-year stint working for Waterstones in Kent and London –  all these temples of print made sure I would not die wondering as to how great a good bookshop could be.

Returning to study here in 1997, I made the acquaintance both of UBS and Scorpio Books, as well as the late, much lamented wedding-cake towers of Smiths Bookshop Manchester Street, a slice of secondhand book history to rival any I’d seen in Britain, since sadly brought down to earth by the terrible earthquake series beginning in 2010, punishing all the old buildings in the city for the next four to five years, along with their inhabitants, we readers.

I cannot truly pick any one of these waystations on my own writing journey, but as of today, UBS still stands firm at the university where I am typing now, surrounded in this office by a shelf of close friends: from an 1852 Wiremu (the New Zealand Dictionary, 2nd edition, compiled by the Rev. Wm. Williams, Archdeacon of Waiapu) to the majestic Collected Poems of Alistair Te Ariki Campbell. I visit our campus bookshop every week; my most recent buy was John Le Carré’s The Pigeon Tunnel.

They hosted the launch of Blood Ties, my beautifully made New and Selected Poems 1963-2016 a few weeks ago; as shortly afterwards did Scorpio, with Mākaro Press’s lovely imprint of Dylan Junkie, my fanboy poems for Bob.  Both events were full of life and energy, people like me who love to read and who – without such oases of cultural riches – would be poor indeed.

Have smart phones and tablets and laptops displaced the paper book? Who knows? It looks that way when I walk through the university library these days and see the waves of screen-babies staring at their machines with hardly a book in sight. Some days, the old words of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer come back to me:

“Almighty and most merciful Father, we have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts … and there is no health in us”.

Was that prophetic? Should I lay down my iPhone and repent, turn again to the halls of print and hold a book like a talisman once more, a reminder of how truths on paper have set me free: truths of the imagination, of science, of faith? Visit my local bookshop while it still remains and buy New Zealand made? Yes, I think so.

Jeffrey Paparoa Holman – 2017

Jeffrey Paparoa Holman was born in London in 1947 and immigrated to New Zealand in 1950, living out his early years mostly on the South Island’s West Coast. He lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.





The Autumn Season of WORD: An amazing week of top notch events

The Autumn WORD festival in Christchurch was an amazing week.

helen mcdonaldWe started on Tuesday 12 May, with Helen Macdonald (right) and Steve Braunias in conversation. They were both in their element and had the audience enthralled, very glad that they had come out on a cold night. Those that had not read H is for Hawk were very quick to purchase it afterwards, to get the full story.

I could have listened to Nick Davies for hours, this session really gave us an insight into the British media world and how corrupt it was. This was the event that saw many people say to me how much their friends would have enjoyed it, if they had come along.

pp_steve_brauniasSteve Braunias’ Madmen event, in conversation with Philip Matthews on the Wednesday night, was in the restored Heritage Hotel, in a wonderful intimate restaurant/bar. It was a great setting which made you feel as though you were sitting with a large group of friends, enjoying a wonderful conversation.

I attended the event featuring David Walliams on the Thursday night, and regretted that I had not purchased extra tickets in the first week for my boys (due to it selling out so fast). It was a full audience, and David had everyone eating out of his hands. It was great to see parents and children queuing for an hour and a half (on a Thursday night!) to get a personal word and signature from David. The Original Children’s Bookshop was selling at this event, and the parents and their children were purchasing steadily, filling the gaps in their collections.

cv_buy_me_the_skyThe next event on Thursday night, was Xinran, who has been to Christchurch before, and always an enjoyable author to listen to. She opens our eyes to what is going on in China, and on this trip, she was talking about the one-child policy and how that is affecting the families and children of today. The way she illustrates her points to her audience is incredibly powerful. This was not a full audience but sales for her books were very strong, with Buy me the Sky the most popular, and steady sales for her previous books.

To finish the week off, on Sunday night, we were at the Court theatre in a converted shed in Addington for the event featuring David Mitchell, chaired by Rachael King. This was the first time this venue had been used for a WORD festival event, and I hope that it is used again. David and Rachael had a wonderful conversation, and the audience all felt a part of it. IMG_2664With no time restraints, they continued on past the scheduled finish time, and it was fantastic. David Mitchell is an amazing author who already had a lot of fans in Christchurch, gathering many more on this trip to New Zealand.

Book sales for the week of the events were very strong. Customers wanted to read the books in advance of attending the festival, so sales were steady from the time of the announcement of the Autumn Season.

By Pene Whitty
Manager, UBS Canterbury