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Words and Melody

  • Waitakere Central, West Auckland’s Civic Building in Henderson. 6 Henderson Valley Road Auckland, Auckland, 0612 New Zealand (map)

Norman Meehan and Bill Manhire with Paula Green

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In her review of Small Holes in the Silence Paula Green mulled over the relationship between music and poetry. “Tricky stuff - translating poetry into song when the new score might muffle the internal music to such an extent the poetry suffers." How does word meet external melody?” Perhaps best positioned to answer that question are poet Bill Manhire and musician and composer Norman Meehan, who have worked together for a decade and produced four albums of poetry set to music.

They join poet Paula Green to discuss their latest collaboration Tell Me My Name, and how they work together to reach a place where, to quote Manhire, “the music doesn’t overpower the words; but neither does it defer to them”.

Bill Manhire lives in Wellington, and is a freelance writer with a SuperGold Card. His most recent books are a new poetry collection, Some Things to Place in a Coffin, and a short fiction collection, The Stories of Bill Manhire. The riddles project Tell Me My Name, created with Norman Meehan, is the latest of several song collaborations over the last few years: Buddhist Rain, Making Baby Float, and These Rough Notes.

Norman Meehan trained as a jazz musician in Wellington, Philadelphia, Boston and San Francisco. His most recent album Tell Me My Name (VUP, 2017) features riddles and charms written by poet Bill Manhire. Norman has released eight albums, one of which is the nights eponym Small Holes in the Silence (Rattle, 2015) featuring song settings of poems by some of New Zealand’s finest poets, including Manhire, Hone Tuwhare and James K. Baxter. Norman has published numerous books on jazz, and taught history and critical papers for the New Zealand School of Music in Wellington for almost twenty years.

Paula Green is a poet, anthologist, reviewer and children’s author with a Doctorate in Italian. She has published ten poetry collections and is currently writing a book on New Zealand women’s poetry. Co-written with Harry Ricketts, her book 99 Ways into New Zealand Poetry was short-listed for the 2010 NZ Post Book Awards. She runs the blog NZ Poetry Shelf and was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for Services to Poetry and Literature in 2017.

Buy a single session $15.00 ($12.00 Concession). Bookings at


Earlier Event: 9 September
Lost Somewhere In Between
Later Event: 9 September
Studio Season 2017: STUFF