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PM’s Literary Achievement Awards Honour Writers

Writers honoured in Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement

Three of New Zealand foremost writers – Kevin Ireland, Anne Salmond and Maurice Gee – have been honoured in the 2004 Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement, held in association with Creative New Zealand and announced tonight in the Grand Hall of Parliament Buildings.

The annual Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement recognise New Zealand writers who have made an outstanding contribution to New Zealand literature. The three $60,000 awards were presented to Kevin Ireland of Auckland for poetry; Anne Salmond of Auckland for non-fiction; and Maurice Gee of Wellington for fiction.

Announcing the Awards, Prime Minister and Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Helen Clark said that Kevin Ireland, Anne Salmond and Maurice Gee have made life-long contributions to New Zealand ’s literary canon.

“ Anne Salmond has a remarkable reputation as a scholar and a storyteller,” Helen Clark said. “Her contribution to enhancing Päkeha knowledge of Mäori is immense. Maurice Gee is simply the doyen of living New Zealand novelists and his record is second to none. Kevin Ireland is one of our finest poets with numerous awards for his writing and is also a leader within New Zealand ’s writing community.

“The quality and contribution of these three literary figures give this award its status.”

Kevin Ireland, Devonport, Auckland : poetry

Celebrated New Zealand poet Kevin Ireland has written 15 poetry collections and is working on a sixteenth collection. His first collection, Face to Face: Twenty-four Poems, was published in 1963 and his most recent, Walking the Land, was published in 2003. In this collection, the poet reflects on his life walking the land of New Zealand for most of his 70 years. He has won numerous awards for his poetry and in 2000 he received an Honorary Doctorate of Literature from Massey University . He was president of PEN (now the New Zealand Society of Authors) from 1990 to 1991, and received a New Zealand Medal and an OBE for services to literature in 1990.

Ireland has also written four novels, two volumes of his memoirs and a short story collection. He recently added “painter” to his list of achievements. His latest novel, Getting Away With It, was launched at this year’s Christchurch Book Festival in September and its cover features the writer’s self-portrait, entitled I fell from grace, but didn’t spill a drop.

Anne Salmond , Devonport, Auckland : non-fiction

Anne Salmond is Distinguished Professor of Mäori Studies and Social Anthropology at the University of Auckland , and also its Pro Vice-Chancellor. Her most recent work, The Trial of the Cannibal Dog: Captain Cook in the South Seas, won the Montana Medal for Non Fiction in the 2004 Montana New Zealand Book Awards. She has written six award-winning books on Mäori life and cross-cultural history in New Zealand and the Pacific. Salmond has achieved many distinctions during her academic career. In 1988, she received the CBE for services to literature and to Mäori and in 1995, she was made Dame Commander of the British Empire for services to New Zealand history. She is also Chair of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

Salmond is currently in England on a fellowship from the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich to research her new work. She will return home to Auckland in late November.

Maurice Gee, Ngaio, Wellington : fiction

Maurice Gee - novelist, short story writer and children’s writer - was among ten of New Zealand ’s greatest living artists named last year as Arts Foundation of New Zealand Icon Artists. Altogether, he has published 15 novels and ten children’s books. He has won many major book awards, including Britain ’s James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1979 for his classic novel, Plumb. His novel Live Bodies won the Deutz Medal for Fiction in the 1998 Montana New Zealand Book Awards and his latest novel, The Scornful Moon, was joint runner-up in the fiction category of this year’s Montana New Zealand Book Awards. A film based on his 1972 novel, In My Father’s Den, had its New Zealand premiere at the 2004 New Zealand International Film Festival. And in September, Fracture, a film based on his 1994 novel Crime Story, was released.

Gee has also won awards and received recognition for his children’s writing, including the 2002 New Zealand Children’s Literature Foundation’s Margaret Mahy Medal.

This is the second year that the Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement have been presented. In 2003, the inaugural recipients were Janet Frame (fiction), Hone Tuwhare (poetry) and Michael King (non-fiction).

New Zealanders were invited to nominate their choice of an outstanding New Zealand writer who has made a significant contribution to New Zealand literature, in the genres of poetry, fiction and non-fiction. The nominations were assessed by an expert literary panel and recommendations were forwarded to the Council of Creative New Zealand for approval.

Chair of Creative New Zealand Peter Biggs applauded the Government for its ongoing support of New Zealand literature, including the Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement.

“These awards celebrate three athletes of the imagination, whose outstanding work chronicles New Zealand life and provides immense pleasure to readers,” Mr Biggs said. “Over several decades, their works have illuminated what it means to be of this country.”

The annual Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement are the result of an additional $1 million (inc. GST) per year to the literary sector, announced by the Government in May 2002. Representatives from the literary sector, Creative New Zealand and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage consulted on the best use of the additional funding.

These Awards, along with the Creative New Zealand Michael King Writers’ Fellowship awarded to Wellington writer Vincent O’Sullivan earlier this year, are two of the initiatives that were established.

Vincent O’Sullivan attended the Awards ceremony where his achievement was also acknowledged.

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