Courtney Sina Meredith (1986 –) is a poet, playwright, fiction writer and musician. Her play Rushing Dolls (2010) won a number of awards and was published by Playmarket in 2012. She launched her first published book of poetry, Brown Girls in Bright Red Lipstick (Beatnik), at the 2012 Frankfurt Book Fair, and has since published a short story collection, Tail of the Taniwha (2016) to critical acclaim. She has been selected for a number of international writers' residencies. Meredith describes her writing as an ‘ongoing discussion of contemporary urban life with an underlying Pacific politique’. She is of Samoan, Mangaian and Irish descent.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Meredith, Courtney Sina (1986 –) is a poet, playwright and musician. She holds a degree in English and Political Studies from the University of Auckland, where she also studied Law and co-edited Spectrum 5 (Penguin). She describes her writing as an ‘ongoing discussion of contemporary urban life with an underlying Pacific politique’.
Poet Robert Sullivan described Courtney Sina Meredith as ‘a leader of the new generation of writers and performance artists gracing our poetry… Meredith’s voice is an exciting addition to New Zealand and Pacific literatures. That voice is full of gusto, attuned to a range of lived and heart realities. Through her absorption of Berlin’s high and low literary culture, her roots in the Auckland Samoan diaspora, and her familiarity with world Polynesian writing, she brings together an edgy singer’s strength, wry insights, sensual material, beautiful shards, blood and breath, monsoons, and glistening water.’
The power of her work is evident in performance and on the page. In 2008 she won the Going West Poetry Slam and the Montana Poetry Slam. Her play Rushing Dolls won two Adam New Zealand Play Awards in 2011: Best Play by a Woman Playwright and overall Runner-up. Rushing Dolls was subsequently published in Urbanesia: Four Pasifika Plays (Playmarket, 2012). Dr Diana Looser, in the 2014 Palgrave Macmillan anthology Contemporary Women Playwrights, says of Rushing Dolls: 'The world the women inhabit as active, visible participants is "Urbanesia," Meredith's neologism for the energetic, urban, polygot culture of contemporary Auckland that brings the island and the city into profound collision, and acts as the crucible of new global identities.'
In 2011, Meredith was the first New Zealander, the first Pacific Islander and the youngest artist in the history of the LiteraturRaum project to be invited to Germany as writer-in-residence for the Bleibtreu Berlin. During her six-week residency she featured within the International Literature Festival Berlin and shared her writing in readings, appearances and interviews. She worked alongside renowned Samoan choreographer Lemi Ponifasio, penning the poem "Mau" in honour of Ponifasio’s dance company. She later performed this poem at the opening of the world premiere of Le Savali, addressing the German president at the Berliner Festspiele. The residency was a formative time for Meredith and she was significantly influenced by meeting writers in exile who had suffered at the hands of their own governments. She returned to New Zealand as a passionate advocate for human rights, holding readings in Auckland that linked to worldwide readings alongside writers such as Noam Chomsky, against oppressive regimes and in recognition of contemporary thinkers.
Meredith’s connection to Germany continued with the launch of her first book of poetry, Brown Girls in Bright Red Lipstick (Beatnik), at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October 2012, where New Zealand was guest of honour. The collection is a snapshot of her early 20s, and best described by critic John Daly-Peoples in NBR: ‘She grapples with the big issues of poverty, conflict, sexism and racism, but also more immediate ones of sex, drinking and eating. All this is rolled into poems which are both serious and frivolous. She is a mixture of performance poet and romantic – a singing Ginsberg and howling Shelley.’
"Silvertip", a 20-part sequence of poems, was published in Landfall’s Frankfurt edition in 2012 and is based in part on her experience in Berlin.
Meredith has continued to share her work with an overseas audience, touring with a group of esteemed global writers for the International Indonesian Poetry Festival (Forum Penyair) in 2012, where she was published in the Indonesian anthology What's Poetry?. She was a delegate for the British Council for Phakama and took part in activities in London that formed part of the Cultural Olympiad in 2012. During her delegation she visited the University of Oxford, where she met with leading scholars and became fascinated with the city. She returned in 2013 to write a series of short poems reflective of her experiences – "Commonwealth" was published by Anne Kennedy in Ika 2 literary and arts journal (2014).
In 2013 Meredith was invited by Alistair Paterson to be the featured poet for Poetry New Zealand 46, guest edited by Nicholas Reid. Reid noted 'the poems express Meredith's concerns with culture, the meetings of culture, dislocation and mystery – in both the religious and secular senses.' Her poem "Homeland" was subsequently anthologised in Essential New Zealand Poets: Facing the Empty Page edited by Siobhan Harvey, Harry Ricketts and James Norcliffe (Random House NZ, 2014).
In 2014 Meredith was invited to the House of Lords by the BBC by permission of Lord Bikhu Parekh, to discuss Britain's role in the world. The evening was chaired by Bridget Kendall and celebrated the success of the BBC radio show The Forum.
Meredith's play Rushing Dolls was selected by Silo Theatre for 2015 Working Titles. She represented New Zealand at the Mexico City Poetry Festival in November 2015 and was invited to be part of ‘Women of Letters’ as part of Wellington LitCrawl in 2015. Her writing has been translated for a variety of audiences into German, Dutch, French, Spanish and Bahasa Indonesia.
Meredith was selected as the 2016 Writer in Residence for the Sylt Foundation in northern Germany.
Tail of the Taniwha (Beatnik, 2016) is Meredith's first short story collection, which was longlisted for the 2017 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. Robert Sullivan described the collection as, 'fabulously sassy, Meredith turns her poetic lens to short fiction, capturing her journey from urbanesia to metropolitan Europe. Tail of the Taniwha is her smashing debut collection.' She was selected for the prestigious 2016 Iowa University Writers' Residency.
Two of Meredith’s short stories from Tail of the Taniwha were selected for publication by both La Trobe and Melbourne University for upcoming volume, Touring Pacific Cultures.
Updated November 2016
MEDIA LINKS AND CLIPS
- Courtney Sina Meredith’s website
- Courtney Sina Meredith as featured poet in Poetry New Zealand, issue 46
- Courtney Sina Meredith on Twitter
- Courtney Sina Meredith interviewed on the blog NZ Poetry Box
- Courtney Sina Meredith’s contribution to ‘Does The Bone People Cut It as a Kiwi Classic?’ on Booknotes Unbound
- Talking Books podcast: second novels
- Interview with Courtney Sina Meredith for Radio New Zealand
- Interview with Courtney Sina Meredith by the University of Auckland
- Interview with Courtney Sina Meredith for E-Tangata
- Review by Steph Soper on Radio New Zealand: Jesse Mulligan Afternoons
- Review of Tail of the Taniwha by Rachel O'Neill on Radio New Zealand: Nine to Noon
Updated January 2017.