In each other’s words: Liz Breslin and Sue Wootton


Liz and Sue pic

Liz’s Breslin’s first poem was called ‘Why does my bum hum Mum?’. Sue Wootton thinks Charles Bukowski is hot.True or False? Read on to find out.

The Outspoken Festival of Words & Storytelling kicked off with a bang this week with Sam Hunt’s three sold-out shows. Yes, thanks to Outspoken there’s a buzz about words in Wanaka, and the good news is there are five more weeks of festival events to come.

Next up, this Tuesday local writer Liz Breslin will be teaming up with Dunedin’s Sue Wootton—Liz’s bawdy take on the every day paired with Sue’s slightly classier approach (though she can be bawdy too, oh yes she can).

The two will be performing back and forth, swapping words and stories and–the bit we can’t wait for—reading each other’s work.

It is in the spirit of this that we’d thought we’d fire them a few questions based on the premise of The Newlywed Game. The show, which started off in the sixties, takes a husband and wife (or husband and husband—same sex couples were introduced in the 2009-10 season) and puts one person behind a wall while the other one tries to predict their answers to a bunch of questions. (There was one famous incident on the show where the host asked where the strangest place was the two had “made whoopee”. We’ll let you Google that.)

So we’ve asked Sue to answer for Liz, and Liz to answer for Sue, and just to make it really interesting, we’ve included their real answers as well. How well did they do?



1. What was the subject matter of the first poem your wrote?  

Liz’s first poem was called Why does my bum hum Mum?

(Liz’s real answer: If school poems for Mothers’ Day don’t count, I don’t actually remember. I’ve got one from when I was about ten and Fleur Adcock came to our school to talk and told us poems didn’t have to rhyme and the poem is about that. It rhymes except the last two lines and I thought I was sooooo clever. My first published poem, though, was ‘Quack said the therapist as sanity reigned.’ That was in 2008.)

2. Robert Louis Stevenson once called wine “bottled poetry”. Is your poetry more Pinot Noir or Shiraz?

Liz’s inner vineyard is somewhat wild. She grows a complex blend of grapes, which she tramples into a complex variety of poems: rough reds, sharp and tangy sauvignon, delicate and stylish champagne with the sweetest little fizz.

(Liz’s real answer: Shiraz. Of the peppery variety. Not the sweet pretender.)

3. What was the last musical gig you attended? 

I’m guessing Leonard Cohen in Christchurch … an unforgettable and magical concert.

(Liz’s real answer: If my son and his uke on constant replay of ‘Demons’ doesn’t count, then it was Leonard Cohen in Christchurch. With Sue, actually, so I might get that answer right for her…)

4. Charles Bukowski: hot or not? 

Chaz and Liz agree that some people never go crazy – what truly horrible lives they must lead.

(Liz’s real answer: The laureate of the American lowlife?! Yeah hot. I had a dream where a friend was yelling at me that I hadn’t sent him Bukowski’s death poem a few weeks ago, which got me revisiting his work via the Googler. I found a spidery death poem here: and in the searching I remembered there was much more to the man than his social life.)

5. What are you most looking forward to about performing at Outspoken? 

The wine.

(Liz’s real answer: The opportunity to perform with Sue. Having some fun, with the audience alongside. Playing.)



1. What was the subject matter of the first poem you wrote?  

Ooh, could it have been an AUTUMN acrostic poem? Those are always popular in the early school years.

(Sue’s real answer: Greif, wherever that is. I have just found a notebook of some of my first poems, written when I was about 12. One is called Esmeralda, who through wanting things that were not there, came to Greif’.)

2. Robert Louis Stevenson once called wine “bottled poetry”. Is your poetry more Pinot Noir or Shiraz?

Good Pinot. The silky stuff that’s mushroomy cherry deep and classy.

(Sue’s real answer: Hmmm, mine’s a quaffing wine with a big blackcurrant nose, hints of seashore and lonesome undertones of gooseberry.)

3. What was the last musical gig you attended? 

Leonard Cohen in Christchurch. With meeee, oops, I mean, Liz, if I’m answering as Sue.

(Sue’s real answer: Neutral Milk Hotel at Sammy’s in Dunedin. And Leonard Cohen in Christchurch before that.)

4. Charles Bukowski: hot or not? 

Hot, but not very nice.

(Sue’s real answer: It’s possible to love any human being if you don’t know them too well. And I’m with him on never get out of bed before noon.)

5. What are you most looking forward to about performing at Outspoken? 

Being back up in Wanaka, enjoying the drive through, seeing familiar faces, being in the rhythm of the words.

(Sue’s real answer: Being in Central – the climate, the landscape, the people. The wine.)


Intrigued? Here’s a bit more info on Sue and Liz.

Once called “refreshingly unfashionable” by poet Harvey Molloy, Dunedin-based Sue Wootton has won several awards for her poetry and fiction, including both NZ Poetry Society and Takahe international competitions. She held the 2008 Robert Burns Fellowship. In 2013 she shared second prize in the International Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine (UK), and won the Cancer Council Victoria Arts Awards (Australia). She is currently writing a novel called Strip, and working towards a Masters in Creative Writing through Massey University, examining the role of the imagination in rational decision-making. Read more at

Liz Breslin’s children often have to get her attention by yelling ‘Oy, poet!’ across the room and her son, Dylan, has this to say about her work: “If you dig down, way past town, you will find the poetry master.” She has a thoroughly underserved reputation for swearing and drinking. Her column, Thinking Allowed, appears fortnightly in the Otago Daily Times and she has performed in Wanaka, Wellington, Dunedin, Auckland, Christchurch (where she got a bit pissed and threw croutons at a famous poet), Rarotonga and the UK. To ogle Liz and her work go to


Liz and Sue will be performing as part of the Outspoken Festival of Words & Storytelling at Bistro Gentil on Tuesday, January 21 at 6pm.

Buy tickets HERE.

Sue Wootton is also holding a writing workshop on Wednesday, January 22 at Bistro Gentil, afternoon tea included.

Register for the workshop HERE.

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