Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Scottish View of New Zealand Poetry

The latest edition of Best New Zealand Poems (, released today by Victoria University’s International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML), comes with a skirl of pipes and a Scottish perspective. 

Each year a new editor selects the best 25 poems published by New Zealand writers during the previous 12 months. This year’s editor, Robyn Marsack, is the director of the Scottish Poetry Library.

Marsack says she selected the 25 top poems thinking about an international audience.
“I was conscious that this site is for an audience outside New Zealand, a window on to its poetry.”

While the 2009 selection features many of the established names of New Zealand poetry—ex-poet laureate Michele Leggott, (pic left by Tim Page), Ian Wedde, C.K. Stead, Bernadette Hall, Chris Price and Brian Turner for example— it also includes emerging writers such as Louise Wallace, Ashleigh Young, Tokyo-domiciled Brent Kininmont, and the acclaimed dancer Douglas Wright. 

 Marsack says while many of the poems are distinctly New Zealand in subject and style, others are less obviously from the Southern Hemisphere.
“Many of these poems are not anchored in New Zealand society or its landscapes; why should they be? The furthest extreme is John Gallas's marvellous 'The Mongolian women's orchestra', and Lynn Jenner's mysterious 'A Hassidic tale might start . . .'.”

Professor Bill Manhire, (pic right), Director of the International Institute of Modern Letters which publishes Best New Zealand Poems, says that he is delighted to have Robyn Marsack’s “outsider” perspective on New Zealand poetry. 

“New Zealand and Scotland have deep and continuing connections, and the writers of both countries are genuinely international in their outlooks. This fits well with the chief aim of Best New Zealand Poems, which is to export our poetry to a global audience.”

A high proportion of visitors to Best New Zealand Poems come from overseas. To encourage further reading poems include notes about the poet, as well as links to related websites.

 Robyn Marsack (left) is a New Zealander, a graduate of Victoria and Oxford Universities, and was co-editor of the 2009 anthology Twenty Contemporary New Zealand Poets. She has been Director of the Scottish Poetry Library since 2000. After moving to Scotland in 1987, she worked as a freelance editor, critic and translator, and has had a long editorial association with Carcanet Press. Her published work includes studies of Louis MacNeice and Sylvia Plath. She lives in Glasgow.

The Scottish Poetry Library recently added a special feature on New Zealand poets to its website: 

Best New Zealand Poems 2009 is published with the support of Creative New Zealand, and hosted by the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre at Victoria University.

For further information contact Bill Manhire, email

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