new zealand electronic poetry centre


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12 Taonga


The Story So Far: An Introduction to the Aotearoa New Zealand Poetry Sound Archive

Compiled and edited by Jan Kemp and Jack Ross, with assistance from Edmund King and Mark King. Material collected by Jan Kemp, Elizabeth Alley, David Howard with Morrin Rout, and Richard Reeve with Nick Ascroft.

In July 2002, Jan Kemp approached Alan Smythe, the Director of SCAPA (School of Creative and Performing Arts at the University of Auckland) about the possibility of their creating an archive of spoken poetry. In 1974, together with Dr Jonathan Lamb, the two of them had teamed up to produce Waiata Recordings’ three LP record albums, New Zealand Poets Read their Work and New Zealand Poets Read their Work for Children, which were a sell-out success to schools, universities and libraries.

The plan was to complete and release this new, updated archive by 2004, three decades post-Waiata Recordings. Jan Kemp accordingly began to compile a list of poets to be invited to record. She also arranged for the collection of recordings and texts, using SCAPA as home base for the archive, and organised the use of regional studios, as well as appointing regional co-ordinators in Wellington (Elizabeth Alley), Christchurch (David Howard and Morrin Rout) and Dunedin (Nick Ascroft and Richard Reeve). The work of collection was well under way by December 2002 when Alan Smythe’s term at SCAPA ended.

Having received a Creative New Zealand grant for the archive, Jan Kemp was able to invite Jack Ross to become the textual editor and later co-director of the archive. He began editing the texts of the spoken poems, and continued doing so throughout 2003 and into 2004 (some indication of the magnitude of this task might be given if one mentions that the 2000-odd tracks recorded occupy almost 3500 pages of printed A4 text). He was greatly assisted in this by the archive’s research assistant Edmund King, who was employed by means of a research grant for further work on the archive obtained by Associate Professor Ken Larsen, head of the University of Auckland English Department. Edmund worked on the project based in the Special Collections department of the University of Auckland Library, where all the originals of the archive will eventually be housed.

Mention must also be made here of the technical expertise of Mark King, from the University of Auckland’s Multimedia Teaching Support Unit who established order in the labyrinth of sound recordings from studios all over the country. Jan assisted Mark in ensuring that the digital audio texts of the recorded poems correlate with the electronic texts and support materials compiled by Jack and Edmund.

At the time of writing, July 2004, two years after the idea was first broached, we can look proudly at 40 CDs of recorded audio, 171 files of edited texts (arranged in alphabetical folders), photographs, biographical notes and bibliographies – an unsurpassed body of textually supported audio recording of contemporary New Zealand poetry.

Appreciation must also be expressed to the Honorary Consultant Patron for the project, Emeritus Professor MacDonald P Jackson and the other Honorary Patrons Elizabeth Alley, Morrin Rout and Alan Smythe. Other advisors include Michael Sumpter and Richard Niven. Organisations that have assisted with the project include Creative New Zealand, a number of Departments and nzepc at the University of Auckland, and the Faculty of Arts at the University of Otago. Live recordings were made at the following locations: SCAPA; Going West Books and Writers Festival Archives, Waitakere; Vincent Geddes and the BBC World Service, Paparoa; Braeburn Studio, Wellington; Breaker Bay Records, Wellington; Plains Radio FM, Christchurch; Sound Archives, Christchurch; Faculty of Arts Studio, University of Otago; Arc Café Studio, Dunedin; studios used by expatriate poets in Australia, Japan, the Netherlands and the USA.

Jan Kemp, founder and director
Jack Ross, co-director
Aotearoa New Zealand Poetry Sound Archive

Jan Kemp and Alan Smythe, 1974

Jan Kemp and Alan Smythe at SCAPA, 2002

1974 Waiata Recording LP




The Archive was created with the cooperation of the poets with support from many publishers. The works it contains cannot be copied without permission. Fair dealing and educational use under copyright laws permitted. All other rights reserved.

Last updated October 11, 2004