Gallagher will receive a $10,000 grant from an endowment fund set up by Janet Frame to benefit New Zealand writers. The Frame estate times the annual award to commemorate Janet Frame’s birthday on the 28th of August.
Rhian Gallagher was born in Timaru in 1961. After completing Bill Manhire’s composition course at Victoria University in 1985, she moved to London in 1987. Her first poetry collection, Salt Water Creek, was published in the UK in 2003, and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Gallagher returned to New Zealand in 2005 and is currently living in Timaru.
Janet Frame Literary Trust chair Pamela Gordon says “Rhian Gallagher is a highly original poet whose well-crafted work has attracted praise both in the UK and in New Zealand. Now that she has settled back in her home country, she could do with some more recognition here, so the Frame trustees are pleased to acknowledge her talent and give some tangible support for her career.”
Bill Manhire added his endorsement: “I first knew Rhian Gallagher when she was in a workshop with a bunch of other formidable young writers: Jenny Bornholdt, Ken Duncum, Elizabeth Knox. Those three are famous now, while Rhian is one of the quiet, astonishing secrets of New Zealand writing – perhaps because she has spent so many recent years out of the country, perhaps because her one book of poems, Salt Water Creek, was published by the Enitharmon Press in London. Those poems, though, are full of New Zealand -- its pines and paddocks and “wild and unprotected light”. Some of them - “The Quiet Place”, “Backyard”, and especially the poems of childhood - remind me of work by Janet Frame.”
Says Gallagher: “The award came out of the blue; I’m in the midst of working on my second collection of poetry so the timing is great. The money will buy some time and the award itself is a real encouragement. I have been an admirer of Frame’s poetry for years so there is this good feeling to it also. As a poet, Frame definitely ploughed her own furrow.”
Gallagher will be appearing at the Christchurch Writers Festival on 5th September.
The award news comes at the same time that a previously unpublished story by Janet Frame appears in the pages of the NEW YORKER. The story “GORSE IS NOT PEOPLE” was written in 1954 and was rejected that year by the editor of the literary magazine Landfall, on the grounds that it was ‘too painful to print.” (Frame describes the circumstances surrounding the writing of the story, in her memoir An Angel at My Table chapter 17).