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Third New Zealand Poet Laureate Announced

Elizabeth Smither

Taranaki based poet, Elizabeth Smither has become the third Te Mata New Zealand Poet Laureate for her outstanding contribution to New Zealand poetry.

Elizabeth Smither is one of New Zealand’s most prolific poets, and already one of our most honoured. Her prizes include the New Zealand Book Award (for A Pattern of Marching) and last year’s Montana New Zealand Book Award (for The Lark Quartet). She has published widely both in New Zealand and leading overseas journals. Her first work of poetry was published in 1975 by Alister Taylor. She has subsequently produced nine poetry books, two novels, two collections of short stories and a volume of journals. She is a notable reviewer of contemporary literature and has recently become an advisory and contributing editor to Stand magazine.

The Te Mata New Zealand Poet Laureate is a New Zealand award created to mark the centenary of Te Mata Estate in 1996. It is intended to celebrate the quality and diversity of New Zealand’s poetry and continue the link that has existed between literature and wine since the first printing press was created from a converted grape press.

Every two years a noted New Zealand poet is selected to become the next Poet Laureate. They receive the title of Te Mata New Zealand Poet Laureate, a tokotoko and a grant of $5000. The tokotoko (a ceremonial walking stick) is carved as an individual staff of office, specifically for each laureate, from the rata block of the original Te Mata grape press. At the end of their tenure Random House New Zealand, with support from Te Mata Estate, publish a volume of the Laureate’s work under the Godwit imprint.

“Elizabeth Smither brings a womanly perspective to the award that reflects the significant contribution made to New Zealand literature by our great woman writers” said Te Mata Estate’s John Buck. “Her classic, much anthologised ‘A Cortege of Daughters’ starts with “a quite ordinary funeral” and then transforms itself into a story of mythical dimensions. Elizabeth Smither is a miniaturist who is busy exploring the cosmos. Her poems are postcards which turn out to be epics.”

Elizabeth Smither succeeds the previous Poet Laureate’s Bill Manhire and Hone Tuwhare. A collection of Hone Tuwhare’s latest poems is due to be published mid this year as the second volume in the Te Mata New Zealand Poet Laureate series. The first volume was Bill Manhire’s book What to call your child published in 1999.


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