Poet ‘surprised, overwhelmed’ by book award

Megan Kitching won the Best First Book Award Jessie Mackay Prize for Poetry for her work  'At the...
Megan Kitching won the Best First Book Award Jessie Mackay Prize for Poetry for her work 'At the Point of Seeing' at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards announced on Wednesday. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED
When Dunedin-based Dr Megan Kitching started writing poems, she never thought they would be heard beyond her friends and family.

But this week, she had the ears and eyes of some of New Zealand’s top book awards judges.

Dr Kitching’s At the Point of Seeing was announced the winner of the Best First Book Award Jessie Mackay Prize for Poetry at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards in Auckland on Wednesday evening.

She told the Otago Daily Times yesterday she was "surprised and overwhelmed" by the honour.

"I was also relieved ... It’s a long way to go for an awards ceremony, so to be surrounded by my family and colleagues was really special."

At the Point of Seeing was inspired by her move from Auckland to Dunedin, and learning to adapt to a new environment.

Poetry category convener Erik Kennedy said it was "one of the most accomplished debuts readers are likely to encounter".

"The collection uses structure to amplify meaning, and its luxuriant lexicon and sometimes knotty syntax are always invigorating rather than confusing. But this book is never a mere exercise in building poems mechanically.

"Megan Kitching’s poems are warm-blooded, compassionate and inquiring. They take the reader into an Aotearoa landscape and a moral universe that they will want to explore over and over again."

Dr Kitching said she was humbled by those words, and inspired to write more poetry.

"It’s been a long journey to get to this place ... It started with me writing poems and reading them to my friends and family.

"I’m still really inspired by nature. I’ve been trying to write more about the sea. I’ve also been writing a little bit about family, and some autumnal poems, as that’s a classic season for poetry."

She was "very nervous" in the weeks before the ceremony.

"It’s a big and varied event. There were all sorts of awards and all sorts of characters. I got to meet my editor in person.

"Having put out the book, you don’t know what response it’s going to get.

"I’m still pleasantly surprised to hear people say they’ve read my book and like it."

She advised budding writers to do "as much as you can".

"Surround yourself in your work and community. We do these creative things because we love them."