Author, performer, and musician Courtney Sina Meredith spoke to express about global roaming, artistry and her debut collection of short stories, Tail of the Taniwha.
Courtney Sina Meredith is a force to be reckoned with. At thirty-years old, this openly bisexual, multicultural master of words has conquered artistic scenes both in New Zealand and worldwide. With a plethora of achievements under her belt including multiple residencies, awards, and recognitions, Courtney Sina Meredith is quickly writing herself into the global literary canon.
When I asked her about reconciling her queer, female and pacific identities as an artist, Meredith gave an eloquent example befitting her literary prowess.
“I wish I could even begin to separate myself like that. I guess it’s a bit like sitting at a table and using it to eat at, or to hold you up while you chat with family, or the place where you sit and tap out gut wrenching love letters – the table itself, however, comes from many different trees, wood logged and cut far away, and brought together to create something that is strong enough to hold under the weight of your daily life. Having the ancestry that I have and loving the people that I love and creating the work that I create, all of those things are part of the foundation that makes me who I am.”
She says that she sometimes “consciously makes [her] characters bisexual or of Maori or Pasifika descent because [she] wants to put those voices and energies front and center” but says that the level at which her culture or sexuality influence her creative process and works varies from project to project.
“I’ve written so many love songs for women and never for a second stopped to think – wow, that’s definitely my sexuality coming through! I write about my experiences in this world and they just happen to be through the lens of being an urbanesian Pasifika woman.
Her latest addition is Tail of the Taniwha, a collection of short stories which she reveals is tied up heavily in her own past. Having spent her early years in a state house on Taniwha Street in Glen Innes before moving to Ponsonby, Meredith says “I wanted to name the book Tail of the Taniwha because I really liked the play on words but also because it connects back to the beginning of my journey, the tail end of where I began and what I hold dear.”
Her most recent publication has been met with glowing reviews and is quickly ascending to the celebrity status of it’s predecessors: award winning play Rushing Dolls (2010) and poetry collection, Brown Girls in Bright Red Lipstick. Of this growing success, Meredith says she is “really heartened by the great feedback” that “has totally overflowed [her] heart.”
Courtney Sina Meredith is currently completing a fall residency at Iowa University’s International Writing Program before heading from New York to Alaska where she’ll dive into a teaching artist residency at the Island Institute in Sitka. In spite of her on-going commercial success, Meredith says that one of the best moment of her career was “when my mum opened up Tail of the Taniwha for the first time and saw that I’d dedicated the book to her. That was pretty special.”
A must read for any self-reflective urbanite, Courtney Sina Meredith’s debut collection of short stories, Tail of the Taniwha, is available at Beatnikshop.co.nz.