New poet laureate scrambles for right words

20:10, Aug 04 2011
TALL TREE: an Wedde holds his tokotoko, a Maori ceremonial carved walking stick given to the poet laureate that symbolises  authority and status.
TALL TREE: an Wedde holds his tokotoko, a Maori ceremonial carved walking stick given to the poet laureate that symbolises authority and status.

Ian Wedde makes his living from words but he admitted he was almost lost for them when he found out he was going to be New Zealand's new poet laureate.

In a ceremony in Parliament yesterday, Wedde was awarded the two-year tenure, taking over the role from Bluff poet Cilla McQueen.

He will receive $80,000 of public funding during his two years. He is expected to produce a publication of the work written during the period and to publicly advocate for and present poetry.

Wedde said he hoped to work with the National Library, which administers the position, on work dealing with memories – relating to his own childhood in Blenheim as well more general memories.

The $80,000 pay cheque meant he would be able to focus more on his writing.

"Without this I would have had to pick up freelance jobs."

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McQueen said being named poet laureate had been "a fantastic boost", and added that, as a young writer, Wedde had been an influence on her. "It's a chain reaction, really."

Previous poets laureate have included Bill Manhire, Hone Tuwhare, Elizabeth Smither, Brian Turner, Jenny Bornholdt and Michele Leggott.

WORDSMITH

A poet, novelist and critic. Born in 1946. His work as an art critic in particular led him to curate several key exhibitions and work as the head of art and visual culture at Te Papa from 1994 until 2004.

His poems appear in numerous journals and anthologies, and in 14 poetry collections. He has written five novels and two books of essays. He co-edited the 1985 Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse with Harvey McQueen.

He was awarded an Arts Foundation Laureate Award in 2006. He is now New Zealand's Poet Laureate. Source: New Zealand Book Council

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