Monday, November 26, 2012


New Zealand writers Albert Wendt, Sam Hunt and Gregory O’Brien were honoured tonight in the 2012 Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement at Premier House, Wellington.
Each received an award of $60,000 in recognition of their outstanding contribution to New Zealand literature: Albert Wendt for fiction, Sam Hunt for poetry and Gregory O’Brien for non-fiction.

The Prime Minister, Mr John Key, said: “With twice as many public nominations as last year, the Prime Minister's Awards for Literary Achievement celebrate another trio of masterful New Zealand writers.”

The Awards are administered by Creative New Zealand.  Arts Council Chair Alastair Carruthers thanked the writers for their contribution to New Zealand literature. "With these awards, New Zealand is once again reminded that we are blessed with writers of enormous breadth, talent and distinction.  We thank and salute you."

The 2012/13 Creative New Zealand Michael King Fellow, Peter Simpson, was also honoured at the ceremony on Monday night. The Auckland-based writer, curator, publisher and academic was presented with his fellowship by the Minister for Arts and Culture, Christopher Finlayson.

 The Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement were established in 2003. Every year, New Zealanders are invited to nominate their choice of a writer who has made a significant contribution to New Zealand literature in the genres of non-fiction, poetry and fiction. New Zealand writers are also able to nominate themselves for these awards. In 2012 there were more nominations than ever before; double those received in 2011.
The nominations are assessed by an expert literary panel and recommendations forwarded to Creative New Zealand for approval.  This year’s selection panel was Jolisa Gracewood, Teresia Teaiwa and Jeffrey Paparoa Holman.

Authors’ biographies

Fiction: Albert Wendt, CNZM
Albert Wendt has made a seminal and lasting contribution to our literature. He has published a substantial body of fiction and poetry and is internationally recognised as leading developments in New Zealand and Pacific writing.
Born in Apia, Samoa, he has won many literary prizes, such as the Wattie Book Award (1980) and the Montana Book Award (2004); and been awarded numerous honours including the Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for Services to Literature in 2000, the Asia Prize for Culture 2004, and three honorary doctorates. In 1988 he was appointed Professor of New Zealand literature at Auckland University, where as Emeritus Professor he continues to play a key role in the debate on issues of indigenous culture, art, and politics.  He continues to be active in fostering literature among Pacific communities, both in New Zealand and their home countries.
His first novel, Sons for the Return Home (1973), was immediately recognised as important, not only for its subject material but because of its success in fusing literary styles with colloquial speech and oral narratives. Other acclaimed novels and collections of short stories include Flying Fox in a Freedom Tree (1974), Pouliuli (1977), Leaves of the Banyan Tree (1979), The Birth and Death of the Miracle Man (1986), Ola (1991), Black Rainbow (1992), and The Mango’s Kiss (2003). Two of his novels have been made into successful full-length feature films. In 2010, he won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for the South-East Asia and Pacific Region for The Adventures of Vela. He published two new books this year, Ancestry, a collection of short stories, and From Manoa to a Ponsonby Garden, a collection of poetry.

Poetry: Sam Hunt, QSM, CNZM
Sam Hunt’s unique, incantatory performances have generated a broad general audience for poetry in this country. He has published more poetry books than any other New Zealander, including From Bottle Creek: Selected Poems 1967–69 (1969), Bracken Country (1971), From Bottle Creek (1972), South Into Winter: Poems and Roadsongs (1973), Time To Ride (1975), Drunkard’s Garden (1977), Collected Poems 1963–1980 (1980), Running Scared (1982), Approaches To Paremata (1985), Selected Poems (1987), Making Tracks (1991), Naming the Gods (1992), Down the Backbone (1995), and, with Gary McCormick, Roaring Forties (1997).
He was awarded a QSM in 1986 for his contribution to New Zealand poetry and was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2010. Though some might consider his natural performance environment to be a public bar, Sam Hunt has read in the New Zealand legislative chamber; performed in Australia, New York and Washington DC; featured with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and members of the group Split Enz; and made regular television appearances.

Non-fiction: Gregory O’Brien
Greg O’Brien has made a rich, diverse and prolific contribution to New Zealand’s cultural scene, for nearly three decades as a writer about art and literature, a poet, anthologist and visual artist. His work has attracted acclaim for its lucid, engaging and intelligent approach. He has written two widely praised books on art for young people, Welcome to the South Seas (AUP, 2004) and Back and Beyond (AUP, 2008). Other non-fiction books include After Bathing at Baxter's - Essays and Notebooks (VUP, 2002) and News of the Swimmer Reaches Shore (Carcanet/VUP, 2007)
Among his other non-fiction works are a collection of interviews with 21 New Zealand writers, Moments of Invention (1988), a study of Ralph Hotere’s collaborations with New Zealand poets, Hotere Out the Black Window (1997), and A Nest of Singing Birds; 100 Years of the New Zealand School Journal (2007). Most recently, his non-fiction publications include a monograph on painter Euan MacLeod (Piper Press, 2010); A Micronaut in the Wide World: the Imaginative Life and Times of Graham Percy (2011), and a monograph on the painter Pat Hanly (2012).
 The Michael King Fellowship: Dr Peter Simpson
Auckland-based writer, curator, publisher and academic Dr Peter Simpson specialises in New Zealand literature, art and cultural history and is the author of six non-fiction books, including Fantastica: The World of Leo Bensemann  ( 2011); Patron and Painter: Charles Brasch and Colin McCahon ( the Hocken Lecture, 2010); Colin McCahon: The Titirangi Years 1953-1959 ( 2007) and Answering Hark: McCahon/Caselberg: Painter/Poet (2001). He has edited, or contributed to, many other titles, including books on Allen Curnow, Kendrick Smithyman, Ronald Hugh Morrieson, Charles Spear and Peter Peryer. During his fellowship, Dr Simpson is working on a new multi-disciplinary project exploring the artistic scene in Christchurch from 1933 to 1953, covering literature, painting, music, theatre and publishing, with the working title Bloomsbury South.
The Michael King Writer’s Fellowship is open to established writers of any literary genre who have already published a significant body of work. Valued at $100,000, it is awarded annually for a project that will take two or more years to complete. 

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