Lauris Edmond was 51 when she began to publish poetry. Twenty-three years later she was established as one of the most significant, assured and accessible of contemporary poetic voices. Identified at first with the 1970s upsurge of poetry by women, she was later recognised for her breadth of appeal and ability to reach people who otherwise read little poetry as well as earning high honours in the literary and academic worlds.
Edmond experienced personal turmoil which accompanied her emergence as a writer. In dealing with these events, losing her daughter in 1975, and she and her husband parting in the mid-1890s, Edmond displayed a philosophical acceptance, forgiveness and compassion. Her poetry, essentially a meditation on her experience, also conveys these qualities; a strength in facing the dark side of life with which she became so familiar, a perception of the everyday as humorous or at odds. Always accessible, Edmond wrote often about family life: the responsibilities of motherhood, the connectedness with children.
Her first volume of poetry, In Middle Air was published in 1975 and it is this which marks the author’s realisation that writing is to be her ‘new work’, her ‘next journey’. This ‘next journey’ is one that led her, within ten years, to extraordinary success and acclaim as a poet. In 1981 Edmond received the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship, she was awarded the Commonwealth Poetry Prize in 1985 for her Selected Poems (1984), and the OBE in 1986 and an Honorary Doctor of Literature of Massey University in 1988. In addition to the eleven volumes of poetry and three of autobiography, she has published a novel, High Country Weather (1984), written radio and stage drama, and edited Letters of A.R.D. Fairburn (1981) and Young Writing for PEN (1979).
Recognised as one of the best New Zealand poets, she received the Lilian Ida Smith Award in 1987 and the A W Reed Award for Contribution to New Zealand Literature in 1999. The award is presented in recognition of an outstanding contribution to New Zealand literature and an involvement in activities which foster and promote literature to wider audiences. Late Song (2001), also published posthumously, was shortlisted in the 2001 Montana New Zealand Book Awards.
Lauris Edmond died 28 January 2000