The award of Poet Laureate celebrates outstanding contributions to New Zealand poetry. For a two-year period, the Laureate is supported by the National Library of New Zealand, through the Alexander Turnbull Library, to create new work and promote poetry throughout the country.
The Laureate is an accomplished and highly regarded poet who can speak for the nation’s community of poets, and to their readers.
Role and Responsibilities
Each Laureate brings a new voice to their term, exploring the role in different ways, but always working to fulfil the responsibilities of the office. They are expected to be an advocate and a public presence for poetry, and involved in events which promote the reading and writing of poetry by children and adults alike. In addition, the Laureate is invited to spend time in the National Library to use its collections or host events.
A key part of the laureateship is the creation of a published work. Michele Leggott launched Mirabile Dictu together with a CD of her recorded poetry at the conclusion of her tenure. Cilla McQueen’s long-form work, Serial, appeared on the National Library’s website, and her volume of poetry, The Radio Room, was published in 2010. Ian Wedde’s The Lifeguard was published in May 2013. This publication included a sequence of poems Shadow Stands Up that first appeared on the Poet Laureate Blog. Being Here: selected poems by Vincent O’Sullivan was launched at the National Library in April 2015.
The New Zealand Poet Laureate Award receives $80,000 (before tax) over a two-year period, and a stipend of wine from Te Mata Estate.
Each Laureate is presented with their own tokotoko – a ceremonial carved walking stick – that symbolises their authority and status. The National Library holds the matua, or parent tokotoko, to signify their joint guardianship, with each new Laureate, of the New Zealand Poet Laureate Award. The tokotoko is a link to the Hawke’s Bay origins of the award, and is currently created by Haumoana artist, Jacob Scott. The tokotoko is presented to the Laureate at Matahiwi marae, near Clive.
The National Library assumed responsibility for the New Zealand Poet Laureate Award from the Hawke’s Bay winery, Te Mata Estate, in 2007. Te Mata had selected Bill Manhire as its first Laureate in 1996, inaugurating a programme modelled on the British Poet Laureate Award.
Michele Leggott was selected by the National Library as the inaugural New Zealand Poet Laureate in December 2007. Cilla McQueen followed as the second Laureate in 2009, Ian Wedde as the third in 2011, and Vincent O’Sullivan as the fourth in 2013. C.K. Stead is the current Laureate.
Te Mata Estate Poets Laureate
- Bill Manhire
- Hone Tuwhare
- Elizabeth Smither
- Brian Turner
- Jenny Bornholdt
New Zealand Poets Laureate (appointed by the National Library)
- Michele Leggott
- Cilla McQueen
- Ian Wedde
- Vincent O’Sullivan
- C. K. Stead
The National Library considers public nominations for the award together with submissions from New Zealand libraries, universities and creative writing programmes. The Laureate is appointed by the Chief Librarian of the Alexander Turnbull Library after consultation with the New Zealand Poet Laureate Advisory Group.
Nominations for the next Poet Laureate will open in mid 2017.