Originally from Hawke’s Bay, her birth certificate names her Cathrine Lewis. But when the creative soul comes out, she calls herself Katy Soljak, and that is whom I interviewed in her Onetangi home last Friday.
Katy, along with Kathy Voyles and Julie Biuso, organises The Love Jam 2017 that will take place late next month.
With the island’s large and diverse creative community of poets, writers and musicians, the event celebrates National Poetry Day, 25 August.
The jam will take place at Waiheke Library on Saturday 26 August from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.
It will feature local poets Sophia Johnson, Rata Gordon, Sue Fitchett, Michelle Chote and Te Reo teacher Ani Morris and Katy Soljak of Dollface will perform original songs, while compere Bruce Davis Goff MCs the evening.
“This is the second time the event takes place in relation to National Poetry Day,” Katy says and, like last year, the organisers have launched an all-island poetry competition to get the creative spirit buzzing and the island in a writing mood.
“Last year, Kathy Voyles’ poem won and Greg Treadwell and Julio Biuso were the runner ups.”
The competition is for Waiheke residents only, and surprise prizes await the winners of the three different categories: children between five and 12, teens between 13 and 18 and adults.
“We haven’t laid any rules or restrictions down on the poems. We only hope that the winners will read their poem at the event.”
Local vineyard owner Luc Desbonnets of Frenchmans Hill Estate has agreed to be a judge along with local journalist Rose Davis.
“Luc is somewhat of a poet,” Katy explains. “He did poetry at Frenchmans Hill last winter, and he really has his heart in the right place.”
As to what finds favour will be up to the judges, Katy says.
“It’s about what poem grabs and makes a difference to you. A poem can be good and well-crafted but it’s not great before it takes you on a journey.”
Children can place their poems with name, age, contact details and possible illustrations into a special box at the library, which stands among a display of local and national poetry.
Poems with contact details can also be sent to Katy on email@example.com.
The deadline for submissions is Monday 7 August at 12pm.
Katy has already been in contact with local schools to encourage students to enter the competition.
“Last year we had some entries from students, and it’s really lovely to have that different voice present.”
For those between 15 and 19, the national teen suicide rate is the worst in the developed world. That is also one of the points, Katy makes; that expressing yourself through writing can help youth out of a dark place.
“In these days where they communicate with cellphones, I believe it can be a valuable cathartic process to write poetry,” she says.
Katy also emphasises the nurturing environment surrounding the local writing community.
“It’s quite brave to share your poetry, and we are all very supportive.”
For almost two years, local poets and bands have met for the open mic night that takes place every last Thursday of the month at Sandbar under the headline The Song and Poetry Thing.
“After the open mic nights at Lazy Lounge came to an end, there were no such thing on the island for a bit.
“Following the success of the Waiheke Poetry Festivals, Sue Fitchett, Sandbar and I opened this space for both amateur and professional performers,” Katy says.
Her involvement comes as no surprise. She walked in creative circles in Los Angeles and Long Beach, California for 10 years, before she came to the island 17 years ago.
Since then, she has played for 15 years with Mano Pratt and Sons. She is part of arts collective The Red Shed where she does mainly acrylic painting; she played in the recent Waiheke Jazz Festival and much more.
“I’ve also been in the duo Dollface with George Gardner for about a year now. With two guitars and George on harmonica, we play a combination of her and my original songs.” The duo will record their first single later this month.
Organisers Kathy, Katy and Julie are extremely thankful to Waiheke Library staff who have been very supportive and to WaiTalks who are lending their stage for the night.
“It really is wonderful that so many people on the island feel passionate about encouraging performance, whether it be art, music or words, and our aim is to keep the rich art culture alive and flourishing on Waiheke,” Julie Biuso says.
The event is sponsored by Phantom Billstickers but the organisers also hope for support from local businesses.
Though last year’s event was free, this year it is ticketed.
“We decided to make it a warmer event with platters and refreshments, so the entry cost is meant to cover this,” Katy explains.
Tickets are $20 for waged, $10 for the low or unwaged and students and children are free. Seats can be reserved by email to Kathy on firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, find ‘Waiheke Poetry Love Jam 2017’ on Facebook.
• Emma Haas