C. K. Stead, New Zealand Poet Laureate 2015-2017


Photo by Marti Friedlander.

Christian Karlson Stead was born in Auckland in 1932. He began writing poetry while still at school, and publishing as a student. His awards for poetry have included the Jessie Mackay award, the New Zealand Book Award for poetry, the King’s Lynn Poetry prize, the Hippocrates Prize for poetry and Medicine, and the Sarah Broom prize. His Collected Poems 1951-2006 received a Montana Prize in 2009.

Other literary awards and prizes include the Katherine Mansfield Short Story award, the New Zealand Book Award for fiction (twice), and the Sunday Times/E.F.G. Private Bank short story prize. In 2011 he received the Prime Minister’s Award for fiction. He has had novels translated into 11 European languages.

As an academic Stead has an international reputation as an expert on 20th century poetic Modernism. He is also well-known as a critic of New Zealand literature. He was Professor of English at the University of Auckland from 1967 to 1986 when he stopped teaching to write full time. He is still Professor Emeritus. Stead was awarded the C.B.E. in 1986 for services to New Zealand literature and in 2007 he was awarded the O.N.Z. C.K. Stead lives in Auckland.

Thinking about the nature of poetry in the foreword to his Collected Poems, Stead wrote: ‘Language is what distinguishes us on our planet, and poetry pushes that everyday currency out into new territories of sense – sensory and semantic. I think of writing a poem as putting oneself in the moment at the moment.’

Karl Miller, Founding Editor of the London Review of Books, wrote: ‘C.K. Stead’s Collected Poems deserves to be seen as an important contribution to the literature of the English speaking world. His talent is more than ambidextrous. To excel as a poet, novelist and critic is rarer than we tend to think, and Karl Stead has managed it.'

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