From small towns in Waikato to a Japanese text – the newest writer in residence at the University of Waikato is set to take inspiration from a range of places in 2020.
Richard von Sturmer, known in New Zealand for his musical performances, will take up residence at the University of Waikato in January. The poet and lyricist, who has to date published seven books featuring a mixture of poetry, prose poems and creative non-fiction, will work on two projects during his residence.
The first, a collection of three hundred very short prose poems with the working title Slender Volumes, will be a mosaic of memories, fables, travel fragments and reflections on the current state of the world – climate change in particular.
His second project will take him to small towns in the Waikato and the neighbouring Waipa and Matamata-Piako regions – to Huntly, Ngaruawahia, Matamata, Kihikihi. He will write site-specific pieces for each place, finding new ways of talking about their geography, their history, and their people.
Richard says that as a writer he embeds himself in a location and then writes from the present moment, being attentive to not only his surroundings but also to his inner world.
“As a writer you always have your antennae out, picking up images, snatches of conversation, ambiguities, anomalies and in general things that give a certain place its unique quality.”
“I will do research on each town so that I can be aware of echoes from the past, but the real writing will be done very much in the present moment.”
Richard was based in the United States from 1991 to 2003, living and working at the Rochester Zen Centre, a Buddist community in upstate New York. At the beginning of 2004, he and his wife returned to New Zealand and founded the Auckland Zen Centre in Onehunga.
“There is a Zen thread that runs through my work and I gain inspiration from Japanese literary forms, in particular haiku and tanka.”
He says the residency provides him with a special opportunity to work full time as a writer in an academic setting.
Jointly funded by the University of Waikato and Creative New Zealand, the position is open to poets, novelists, short story writers, dramatists and writers of serious non-fiction. There are no teaching or lecturing duties attached to the award, the sole purpose of which is to give the post holder the freedom to write.
Professor Allison Kirkman, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Division of Arts, Law, Psychology, and Social Sciences says that the Writer in Residence programme brings significant value to the University:
“Our Writers in Residence have a long history of enriching the student and staff experience at the University of Waikato.”
“We look forward to Richard bringing his writing skills and unique personal vision to the Waikato residency and to the cultural life of the University in 2020.”