Anne French is a poet, critic and editor. Born in Wellington, she became Oxford University Press’s New Zealand managing editor in 1982 and managing editor at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in 1995. French gained early success as a poet, winning the PEN Young Writer’s Incentive Award in 1973 and 1974. Her first collection wasn’t published until 1987, but attracted considerable attention, winning both the New Zealand Book Award for Poetry and the PEN Best First Book of Poetry Award in 1988. French is available to visit schools.
FROM THE oxford companion TO new zealand literature
French, Anne (1956 -), is a poet, critic and editor. Born and raised in Wellington, she was educated at Wellington GC and Victoria University (MA 1979). After joining Oxford University Press in Wellington as an editor in 1979, she became OUP's New Zealand managing editor in 1982. In 1993 she became the inaugural writing fellow at Massey University and since 1995, has been managing editor at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. She is also a regular reviewer, usually of New Zealand writing.
French gained early success as a poet, winning the PEN Young Writer's Incentive Award in 1973 and 1974. Her poetry began to appear in Landfall and other periodicals from the mid-1970s, but her first collection, All Cretans Are Liars, was not published until 1987. It attracted considerable attention, winning both the New Zealand Book Award for Poetry and the PEN Best First Book of Poetry Award in 1988. Three other collections have since been published: The Male as Evader (1988), Cabin Fever (1990) and Seven Days on Mykonos (1993).
Central to French’s poetry are questions of identity and definition. A major concern is how a poet writing at the end of the twentieth century defines herself in relation to the Western poetic tradition in general and the New Zealand poetic canon in particular. Always acutely aware of itself and of the reader, her poetry plays with both traditional and open forms and contains deliberate echoes of earlier poets. Identity established through language and place is another preoccupation: what it means to live here, with a bicultural heritage (expressed for example in the evocative identification of Hauraki Gulf place names in Cabin Fever), rather than somewhere else (the home/abroad contrasts of Seven Days on Mykonos). The definition of oneself through others is a constant theme, made most explicit in the elegant and ironic cataloguing of love and lust, need and betrayal from a feminist perspective in The Male as Evader, but recurring throughout French’s poetry. The positions thus arrived at are never fixed, however; her work to date can be read as a kind of ongoing debate, both for the poet, forever redefining herself, and with her readers.
Author entry from The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature,
edited by Roger Robinson and Nelson Wattie (1998).
Back to top
French's All Cretans Are Liars won the 1988 New Zealand Book Award for Poetry.
Her collection of poetry, Boys' Night Out, was published by Auckland University Press in 1998. It was a finalist in the 1999 Montana New Zealand Book Awards.
In 2004, she joined Paul Millar and Tony Simpson on the judging panel for the Montana New Zealand Book Awards.
Wild (2004) is French's sixth book of poetry. 'I am a foreigner here in my fathers country. I know the true meanings of wind, mountain, wild.'
She had a poem included in Shards of Silver (Steele Roberts, 2006), a book investigating the interplay between photography and poetry.
Back to top
French is able to visit schools outside her region and is happy to talk to high school age students about writing poetry and non-fiction. Her preferred number of students is 10 in a session but she is prepared to talk up to 30. She is happy to do workshops, by prior arrangement.
Back to top