Poets share their favourite song, bands their favourite poem
May 23, 2017
And they’re all playing a little festival in Wellington called Sad by Sad South.
This weekend, Wellington will play host to a festival, but don’t expect aging rock bands half-heartedly jamming out in a muddy field. It’ll feature some of New Zealand’s most exciting creatives playing and speaking in intimate, interesting venues. Think thoughtful, cerebral, spoken word; washes of fuzzy pop guitars; cutting acoustic melancholy; all in an artist crafted spaces, and all delivered by engaged, passionate creatives working together.
Sad by Sad South is an all ages poetry and music festival happening in venues around southern Wellington. On the lineup are musicians and poets from around New Zealand. The festival is split into several shows held in intimate venues, with each space curated by different local artists.
Festival organiser James Stuteley hopes that by having poets and musicians share stages, people will open up to something they wouldn’t normally go to. “People into poetry might not want to see four rock bands in a row, and people who want to go to a rock show might not want to see four poets. The idea is basically to make the environment more comforting for everyone.”
Sad by Sad South is the New Zealand incarnation of Sad by Sad West, which had its first events last year in Sydney and Melbourne. James, who has a record label called Papaiti, co-runs the events with Australian label Lesstalk. As the local for this event he’s booked most of the acts, and says he’s chosen poets and musicians that will make for shows with a diversity of aesthetic.
James says it’s important to recognise the indigenous people of the Wellington area – particularly as the festival exists within a social system that is built on the disenfranchisement and oppression of Māori.
Promotions for the festival include the proverb “Ngā mihi nui ki ngā tangata whenua a Te Whanganui-ā-Tara. Ngā mihi anō ki Te Āti Awa. He kotuku rerenga tahi.”
“‘He kotuku…’ is an affirmation that we are working passionately and care about the project, an affirmation that we are committed to the festival as something special.”
Inspired by the festival’s community mindedness, we asked three performing poets to talk about their favourite songs, and three of the festival’s musical acts to talk about their favourite poems.
Eamonn Marra > Here – Pavement
I am a big fan of a good sad song and Here has been one of my go-to sad songs for nearly a decade now. I have a sad music playlist which I listen to at least once a month, but when I listen to it it’s usually on repeat for days.
My strongest memory of this song is from when I was working a terrible job doing security in a mall carpark around Christmas 2009. One day it was pouring with rain and I was rostered on the rooftop which wasn’t busy. I was told I wasn’t allowed to move under cover and there was no work to do in the carpark so I walked around in the pouring rain singing this song quietly to myself over and over again for about three hours. A couple of months later I saw Pavement play this song in their reunion tour and it stands out as one of my best live music experiences ever.
Carb on Carb > Monica – Hera Lindsay-Bird
I came across Hera Lindsay-Bird’s poetry while working a desk at the library I used to work at. And I just got sucked in, I think I read all of her poems that were online in quick succession. ‘Monica’ is the one that stays with me the most, maybe because its title is so unassuming, but then you start reading and it just delivers. Seeing these powerful observations that hit home written in this conversational tone, it really captured my attention in a way usually only music does.
Anyone that can make a couplet like “Everything is about to go slowly but inevitably wrong / in a non-confrontational, but ultimately disappointing way” feel exhilarating is doing something right.
Evangeline Riddiford Graham > Smoke Gets in Your Eyes – Eartha Kitt (written for stage by Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach)
This is my current choice of funeral song – for myself, that is. I’d like to go up in a puff of smoke as Eartha Kitt purrs that it’s getting in her eyes. The Platters’ version is great too – it’s an old show tune, and they don’t shy away from the drama. I tend to play it in bursts – I’ll have it on repeat for a week, then the brutally philosophical romance of it gets too much for me, and I have to take a few months off to recover.
girlboss > Tonight Will be Fine – Leonard Cohen
OK, so I’m kinda cheating here. But he is a poet too.
Words resonate with me more when they are in music. So let’s just look at this as a poem.
I first heard it during my completely absorbing Leonard Cohen phase aged 17. I would listen to him, read his poetry books, and google his lyrics in all my spare time. He is one of the very few musicians where the lyrics are more consuming for me than the song/writing/music itself.
I was going through the most ridiculous and unsettling time of my life and I sought a lot of comfort from music, Leonard Cohen especially. Hearing or reading his words gave me a great feeling of relief. These ones in particular – at the time I was spending most of my time with two very close people in my life: my first love, and a brand new very close friendship love (and we all loved Lenny a lot). Keyword is love.
I don’t listen to it often enough, so sometimes the words give me great pangs of nostalgia, which I am not always into. But when the feeling is right it goes down a bloody treat.
Freya Daly Sadgrove > 12:51 – The Strokes
It has been my favourite song since I was approximately 15 and it just helps me feel, you know, all real. Which is something I need lots of help with.
When I was 15, I was constantly at work trying to construct and control a whole adequate self to parade around. It was really stressful and 12:51 was two and a half minutes of massive respite, like: girl, life is tiring, just let things roll out and blow up, and also maybe pash someone a bit. It still gives me that weird crush energy, it’s so good.
Grayson Gilmour > Sabishisa wa (Loneliness) – Monk Jakuren
For me, poetry is inextricably linked to certain times/places/people in my life; it’s an art form that I turn to as a means of making sense of things. When I was 18, I traveled and worked around Japan for a few months, and while being a really exciting time in my life, it was also particularly lonely one. Fortunately, I was exposed to some great music, poetry and alcohol via other temp-workers during my time in the mountains of Gunma. Poems, like Shinkokinshū by Monk Jakuren, turned my isolation into contemplation …
Sono iro to shi mo
Maki tatsu yama no
Aki no yūgure.
The essential colour of a beauty
Not to be defined:
Over the dark evergreens, the dusk
That gathers on far autumn hills.
*Sad by South South runs from April 21– 23. For more info and tickets go here.