His parents told him he wouldn't find his fortune, but poetry has paid off for Sam Hunt.
Hunt, novelist Albert Wendt and non-fiction writer Greg O'Brien each received a Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement - which comes with $60,000 - at Premier House last night. Hunt, 66, said the award was "humbling", as it recognised the value of literature, which was often not a lucrative field.
"About 50 years ago, when I first said to my parents: ‘I want to live on my poems,' it was pointed out to me that that wouldn't be happening.
"Over the years, I've made it vaguely possible - I've got to rob a bank every now and then - but it's lovely to have that acknowledgement.
"I just sort of sing for my supper and it's a lovely supper to enjoy. I'm most grateful."
The awards were established in 2003, and recognise writers who have made significant contributions to non-fiction, poetry and fiction. Past winners have included Janet Frame, Maurice Gee, Bill Manhire, Hone Tuwhare and Michael King.
Hunt did not know who had nominated him for the prize and rejected any suggestion that he was part of the literary elite.
"The people, they're the critics that I'm interested in. Not people from English departments at universities."
Poetry: Sam Hunt, QSM, CNZM.
Fiction: Albert Wendt, CNZM.
Samoan-born writer Albert Wendt has published a huge range of fiction and poetry since his first novel, the epic Sons for the Return Home, in 1973. He is active in fostering literature among Pacific communities.
Non-fiction: Greg O'Brien.
Greg O'Brien is a Wellington-based writer, painter, poet and editor. His two books on art for young people - Welcome to the South Seas (2004) and Back and Beyond (2008) - both won the Non-Fiction Prize at the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young People.
- The Dominion Post
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