Vincent O’Sullivan has long been recognised as one of New Zealand’s significant literary figures, through his extensive publications as a short story writer, novelist, biographer, playwright, and editor, as well as for his many volumes of poetry. O’Sullivan’s first book of verse, Our Burning Time (1965), contained poems that had been published in periodicals in New Zealand, UK and the USA. A string of poetry and short story collections preceded his first full-length novel, Let the River Stand (1993) which won the Montana New Zealand Book Award in 1994. Since then he has written fiction, verse, plays, and librettos in turn.
A graduate from the universities of Auckland (1959) and Oxford (1962), he lectured in the English departments of Victoria University of Wellington (1963–66) and after several months in Greece at the University of Waikato (1968–78), before committing himself to full-time writing.
The winner of many literary prizes, he was the Katherine Mansfield Memorial Fellow in Menton in 1994. In 1997 he also became director of Victoria’s Stout Research Centre. O’Sullivan is the pre-eminent Katherine Mansfield scholar, being co-editor of the five-volume edition of her Collected Letters, and the two volumes of her Complete Fiction, published last year by Edinburgh University Press.
In 1994, he was made a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2000, received the Prime Minister’s Award for Literature in 2005 and received an honorary Ph.D. from Auckland University in 2008. As the English critic Chris Miller wrote of O’Sullivan’s work, "You can’t ask much more of a poet than wit, profundity and elegance, and they’re all here in spades."
His most recent work, a compelling nuanced portrait of the great New Zealand artist Ralph Hotere, brings the man and his art to life.