Poet Laureate Award

New Zealand Poet Laureate Award

The Poet Laureate Award celebrates outstanding contributions to New Zealand poetry. The Laureate is an accomplished and highly regarded poet who can advocate for New Zealand poetry and inspire current and future readers.

A new Laureate is chosen every two years. They are supported by the National Library of New Zealand to create new work and promote poetry throughout the country.

What does the Laureate do?

Each Laureate brings their own voice to the role, exploring it in different ways, but always working to fulfil the responsibilities of the office. They’re expected to be an advocate and a public presence for New Zealand poetry, and to be involved in events that promote the reading and writing of poetry.

The Laureate is also invited to spend time at the National Library to use its collections and host events.

Publication

A major part of the laureateship has been to create new work for publication. Michele Leggott launched 'Mirabile Dictu' together with a CD of recorded poetry at the end of her tenure. Cilla McQueen’s long-form work 'Serial' was published on the National Library’s website. 'Edwin’s Egg & Other Poetic Novellas', based on 'Serial', came out as a book in 2014.

Ian Wedde’s 'The Lifeguard' was published in 2013 and included poems that first appeared on the Poet Laureate blog. 'Being Here: Selected Poems' by Vincent O’Sullivan was launched at the National Library in 2015. A small-press edition of CK Stead’s poems, printed by Brendan O’Brien at Fernbank Studio, was launched at the Library in 2017.

Selina Tusitala Marsh’s illustrated mini-memoir 'Mophead' will be published in October 2019, with a chapbook of poems coming out in July. 'Tokotoko: A Poetic Memoir' is due in 2020.     

Tokotoko

Each Laureate is presented with their own tokotoko (carved orator’s stick), which symbolises their authority and status. The National Library holds the matua, or parent tokotoko, to signify joint guardianship, along with each new Laureate and Matahiwi marae, of the New Zealand Poet Laureate Award. The tokotoko is a link to the Hawke’s Bay origins of the award and is carved by Haumoana artist Jacob Scott. The tokotoko is presented to the Laureate at Matahiwi.

History

The National Library took over responsibility for the New Zealand Poet Laureate Award from the Hawke’s Bay winery, Te Mata Estate, in 2007. Te Mata chose Bill Manhire as its first Laureate in 1996, inaugurating a programme modelled on the British Poet Laureate Award.

The Laureates

Te Mata Estate Poets Laureate
  • Bill Manhire
  • Hone Tuwhare
  • Elizabeth Smither
  • Brian Turner
  • Jenny Bornholdt

New Zealand Poets Laureate
  • Michele Leggott
  • Cilla McQueen
  • Ian Wedde
  • Vincent O’Sullivan
  • CK Stead
  • Selina Tusitala Marsh
  • David Eggleton

Nominations

The National Library considers public nominations and those from a variety of sources, including New Zealand libraries, universities and creative-writing programmes. Nominations are considered by the New Zealand Poet Laureate Advisory Group, and the Laureate is appointed by the Chief Librarian of the Alexander Turnbull Library.

More information on the New Zealand Poet Laureate Award, and nomination forms