Marty Smith (Writing for the Page, 2004)

I can’t separate the MA from what led into it and what led out of it.

Marty writes: 'I can't separate the MA from what led into it and what led out of it. It's ridiculous to do a CREW poetry workshop three times, but each time I grew a separate writing limb. Greg O'Brien taught me how to be loose, Shannon Welch taught me to be language led, and Zach Savich taught me chaos.

'Right from the first exercise, in Greg O'Brien's undergraduate poetry workshop, I worked so carefully, you know, out of a kind of terror. I was being good. I was earnestly following the rules. Yeah, I know, I hear silvery laughter from all over my life. But there was Kirsten McDougall looking like butter wouldn't melt, and it came to her turn. She smiled charmingly and said "Oh, I didn't like that exercise, so I did a different one."

'And she'd written this bright, springing poem. Greg was delighted and I was just enchanted. I learned to ignore boundaries, and Greg was all for unhitching things, for derailing the poetry train. I couldn't begin to calculate the ways Greg and his suggested readings, and just his way of being influenced me.

'The high voltage point was our writing group. We are the remnants of Shannon's workshop, and, joy, all serious poets. Some of us were on our way to getting into the MA, and the others had just done it and wanted to specialise in poetry. Six of us still work together after 11 years, and every poem in my book has gone through their filters. One of us was Kirsten.

'Kirsten and I got into the MA in 2004, with Damien Wilkins, in the last year that poets and prose writers were together. Damien told me I was really a prose writer (small smile), which I have always believed. When I told him that, after my book won the award, he was astounded. Then he laughed.

'I'm sorry the MA is in two streams now. I got to work with great prose writers, and be exposed to Damien's brilliant discussion and feedback. I had narrative and dialogue in one ear, and poetry in the other. Now Kirsten has gone over to the dark side, and writes brilliant, luminous prose. And I get to be her first reader.

'All my workshops and everyone I've worked with have fed into the rhythms and movement of my writing. Actually, it's just me talking, shaped by the IIML.'

Bio: The manuscript for Horse with hat was short-listed for the 2011 Kathleen Grattan Award. 'Agnus Dei' was shortlisted for the 2013 Bridport Prize (UK) and was a placegetter in the 2014 Joy Harjo Poetry Prize (USA). Horse with hat (Te Herenga Waka University Press, 2014) won the Jessie Mckay Award for Best First Book of Poetry in the 2014 New Zealand Post Book Awards, and was a finalist in the Poetry section of the same awards.

In late 2014 Marty was awarded an arts grant, allowing her to be released from school teaching for part of 2015 to work on her next book, which will take place in the racing world. She's going to see if she really is a prose writer.

Marty is the Creative Director of the Hawkes Bay Arts Festival Reader and Writer events.

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