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Poet essayist Marianne Boruch at Writers on Mondays

Those of you in or near Wellington next Monday (31 July) will likely want to get yourselves along to this Writers on Monday session which looks like it will be right up our alley.

The Little Death of Self: Marianne Boruch

American poet Marianne Boruch notes that ‘Both poetry and the essay come from the same impulse—to think about something and at the same time, see it closely, carefully, and enact it.’ A recent poetry collection Cadaver, Speak, sees her in the dissection room considering the ravages and resilience of the body, and in her new essay collection The Little Death of Self, Boruch’s restless curiosity ranges across science, music, medicine and art, asking questions such as ‘Why does the self grow smaller as the poem grows enormous?’ She is joined by poetry and creative nonfiction convenor Chris Price to explore how her poetry and essays approach the big topics of love, death and human knowledge.

The Writers on Mondays events are open to the public and free of charge.

12:15pm to 1:15pm, 31 July 2017
Te Papa Marae, Level 4, Te Papa, Wellington

Brian Blanchfield, Christian Bök, Amy Brown coming to the Poetry and the Essay conference

We’re very pleased to announce a few more speakers who will be participating in the Poetry and Essay conference, which will be held at Victoria University of Wellington, 6–8 December 2017.

US poet and essayist Brian Blanchfield’s Proxies: Essays Near Knowing (Nightboat Books, 2016; Picador UK, 2017),have been one of our discoveries of the year, and we have been enjoying the wide-ranging rich, intimate, sometimes uncomfortable gems that are each subtitled ‘Permitting Shame, Error and Guilt, Myself the Single Source’. His second book, the collection of poetry A Several World (Nightboat Books, 2014), was James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets and was a longlist finalist for The National Book Award. He is Assistant Professor of Literary Nonfiction at the University of Idaho.

Canadian poet Christian Bök is perhaps best known for Eunoia (2001), a bestselling work of experimental literature, which won the Griffin Prize for Poetic Excellence. He is currently working on The Xenotext – a project that requires him to encipher a poem into the genome of a bacterium capable of surviving in any inhospitable environment. You can watch a video of him talking about this fascinating project on the CBC website. Bök is a Fellow in the Royal Society of Canada, and he teaches at Charles Darwin University.

Amy Brown, a New Zealand poet now living and working in Melbourne, wrote the ambitious and impressive collection The Odour of Sanctity (Victoria University Press, 2013) as part of her PhD in creative writing, in which she examined contemporary epic poetry. She is currently an English and Philosophy teacher at the Mac.Robertson Girls’ High School.

The previously announced keynote speakers for the conference are award winning New Zealand poet Jenny Bornholdt and Canadian academic Ian Rae.

You can read more about all of the speakers on the Speakers and organisers page.

Call for papers deadline tomorrow

The deadline for getting a proposal to the conference organisers is 17 July. If you don’t have a complete abstract, an informal email briefly outlining your idea will suffice at this stage.

We are interested in:

  • proposals for scholarly papers (20 mins)
  • proposals for panel discussions, and
  • expressions of interest from poet-practitioners to read (and perhaps discuss) their own essay poems, either as a 10-minute reading or a 20-minute paper.

For more information:

Proposals should be sent to the organisers, Helen Rickerby, Angelina Sbroma and Anna Jackson, by 17 July, 2017. They can be emailed to

Announcing Jenny Bornholdt as a keynote speaker at Poetry and the Essay

We’re really delighted to announce Jenny Bornholdt as a keynote speaker at the Poetry and the Essay conference. We’re especial fans of her essay poems in The Rocky Shore.

Jenny Bornholdt, described by Victoria University Press publisher Fergus Barrowman as “the major New Zealand poet of her generation,” is the author of nine collections of poetry and co-editor of several anthologies. Her many honours include the Meridian Energy Katherine Mansfield Fellowship to Menton, 2002 and the Te Mata Estate New Zealand Poet Laureate, 2005–6, and in 2013 she was named a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit. Her 2008 collection The Rocky Shore, winner of the Montana New Zealand National Book Award for Poetry, is made up of six long essayistic poems, described on the book cover blurb as being “as much autobiographical essay as long poem.” As she writes in “Confessional,” “when people talk about poetry / they often mention compression – yes, it can / be that, but it can also be a great sprawling / thing.”

Find out about other speakers

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First keynote speaker announced: Ian Rae

We’re delighted to announce that our first keynote speaker for the Poetry and the Essay conference is Canadian academic Ian Rae, Associate Professor of Modern Languages at King’s University College at Western University, Ontario.

Rae is the author of the monograph From Cohen to Carson: The Poet’s Novel in Canada (2008) and editor of George Bowering: Bridges to Elsewhere (2010), a special issue of the journal Open Letter. In 2012, he earned a SSHRC Insight Development Grant for his Mapping Stratford Culture project, which aims to develop an interdisciplinary cultural history of this Canadian arts hub. In 2016, he received a Moore Institute Fellowship at the University of Ireland, Galway, for his work on the Stratford Festival and the Irish Literary Revival.

More keynote speakers will be announced as they are confirmed.