"Mystery is the big thing. If poets aren't exploring their way forward into mystery, they might as well give up completely."

Bill Manhire was born in Invercargill in 1946, and grew up in small hotels in Otago and Southland, an experience beautifully evoked in his short memoir, Under the Influence.

His first book of poems, The Elaboration, was published in 1972, and contained drawings (including a portrait of the poet) by artist Ralph Hotere (Icon).  Over the years, Bill has worked often with Ralph Hotere, especially in the MALADY poems and paintings, and in the dance-performance work Song Cycle.

He has published many collections of poems, winning the New Zealand Book Award for Poetry five times. He is also the author of a prize-winning collection of short stories. He was the inaugural Te Mata Estate New Zealand Poet Laureate, and a Meridian Energy Katherine Mansfield Fellow in Menton, France.

Bill is probably one of the few poets ever to reach the South Pole. A long-standing interest in Antarctica took him to the ice as one of Antarctica New Zealand's inaugural arts fellows. The experience is reflected in a major sequence of poems, Antarctic Field Notes, and in the innovative anthology The Wide White Page: Writers Imagine Antarctica, which includes work from the great Italian poet Dante through to more recent writers like Edgar Allan Poe, Vladimir Nabokov, and Pablo Neruda. Bill also wrote the moving poem Erebus Voices for Sir Edmund Hillary to read at the commemorative service at Scott Base to mark the 25th anniversary of the Erebus tragedy .  

Bill has been a significant figure in promoting New Zealand poetry and literature - not only through his internationally acclaimed creative writing course at Victoria University but also through his work as a critic, anthologist, and broadcaster, and in his appearances at writing festivals around the world.

In 2004 Bill received an Arts Foundation Laureate Award and in June he was appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.  In that same year he received an Honorary Doctorate of Literature from the University of Otago. Bill's book Lifted won the Poetry Category of the 2006 Montana Book Awards.

In 2007, Bill was involved with the editing and publication of Janet Frame's posthumous collection of poems, The Goose Bath, and joint project leader of Are Angels OK? a sci-art collaboration between leading New Zealand writers and physicists. He also worked with composer Eve de Castro-Robinson writing a piece for children's voices and orchestra. Their work These Arms to Hold You won the SOUNZ Contemporary Award. In the same year he was one of three writers honoured with a 2007 Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement, each receiving $60,000 in recognition of their significant contribution to New Zealand literature. His recent work is The Victims of Lightning was published by Victoria University Press in 2010.  At the end of the year, Bill was one of 12 top pure and applied science and humanities researchers to be elected as Fellows of the Royal Society of New Zealand.  He was also involved in a new recording by Norman Meehan using his lyrics in jazz settings on a CD entitled Buddhist Rain .

Video

2005
Bill Manhire reads his poem On Originality to animated text by Jared Forbes
1946 
   born Invercargill, New Zealand
1967 
   Graduated MA (with first-class honours) University of Otago
1970
    M.Litt (Master of Literature), University of Otago
1973
    M.Phil (Master of Philosophy), University of London
1978
    How to Take Your Clothes Off at the Picnic New Zealand Book Award for Poetry
1985
    Zoetropes wins New Zealand Book Award for Poetry
1992 
   Milky Way Bar wins New Zealand Book Award for Poetry
1996
    My Sunshine wins New Zealand Book Award Book of the Year
1997
   One of Antarctica New Zealand's inaugural arts fellows - Bill reaches the South Pole;Inaugural Te Mata Estate New Zealand Poet Laureate
2004
   Meridian Energy Katherine Mansfield Fellow, Menton, France
2005
   Arts Foundation of New Zealand Laureate Award;Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit;Honorary Doctorate of Literature from the University of Otago
2006
    Lifted wins Montana New Zealand Book Awards Poetry Prize
2007 
   Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry
2010
    One of 12 top pure and applied science and humanities researchers elected as Fellows of the Royal Society of New Zealand