Brunton, Alan


Alan Brunton was an endlessly fertile and eclectic poet, scriptwriter and performer. Born in Christchurch, Brunton also worked as an editor, director, performance tutor, literary critic and community arts worker. He was the founding editor of Freed and co-edited the tabloid-format arts magazine Spleen. With his partner Sally Rodwell, he also established the important experimental theatre group Red Mole. Brunton was the University of Canterbury’s Writer in Residence in 1998.
He died suddenly in Amsterdam in 2002.


Primary publisher: Auckland University Press

FROM THE oxford companion TO new zealand literature

BRUNTON, Alan (1946– 2002), is a poet, scriptwriter and performer. Born in Christchurch, he was educated at Hamilton BHS, University of Auckland (BA, 1967) and Victoria University (MA in English, 1968).

He began contributing poems to student magazines from 1968, revealing connections and affinities with various strands of British, American and (later) continental modernism, and in 1969 was founding editor of Freed, for which he wrote manifestos declaring ‘the word is freed’ from provincial disabilities and reactionary poetics.

From 1970 Brunton spent three years in Europe and Asia, publishing his first small book, Messengers in Blackface (1973), in London. Back in New Zealand 1974–1978 he founded (with his partner Sally Rodwell) the important experimental theatre group Red Mole, for whom he wrote and performed around forty-five scripts between 1975–1995. He also co-edited (with Ian Wedde) the tabloid-format arts magazine Spleen, eight issues of which appeared in 1976–1977.

Meanwhile he wrote Black & White Anthology (Hawk Press, 1976), a 33-part sequence with an Asian setting, and Oh Ravachol (Red Mole, 1978), highly allusive and apocalyptic poems printed in tabloid format, many of them written with performance in mind.

He spent the next decade, from 1978–1988, abroad, mostly in New York, New Mexico, London and Amsterdam, scripting and performing in Red Mole shows. Two limited editions of poetry were published in New York: And She Said (Red Mole, 1984) and New Order (Red Mole, 1986). Selections from these books together with other poems from the ‘lost decade’ were included in Slow Passes 1978–1988, with an introduction by Peter Simpson (1991).

Since 1988 Brunton has lived in Wellington. A selection of his performance scripts was published in 1989 as A Red Mole Sketchbook, and in the same year Day for a Daughter, with drawings by Sally Rodwell (Untold Books). Ephphatha (1994), a word-and-image text, resulted from collaboration with the visual artist and publisher Richard Killeen.

An endlessly fertile, eclectic and prolific poet and scriptwriter, Brunton has also worked as an editor, director, performance tutor, literary critic and community arts worker.


Author entry from The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature,
edited by Roger Robinson and Nelson Wattie (1998).

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Additional Information

After the Companion entry was written Alan Brunton published Moonshine, an epic poetic fiction about Ernest Rutherford; Romaunt of Glossa, a verse letter in eight parts; and Years Ago Today, a documentary essay on the production of poetry in the 1960s.

He also produced a digital recording of music and poetry with the Free Word Band, 33 Perfumes of Pleasure; and Heaven's Cloudy Smile, a video by Sally Rodwell of a dialogue between poets Alan Brunton and Michele Leggott.

He was the University of Canterbury's Writer in Residence in 1998.

Alan Brunton died suddenly in Amsterdam, June 27th 2002.

Alan Brunton wrote Fq, a sequence of 144 poems, while he was Writer in Residence at the University of Canterbury in 1998. It was finalised for publication just before his death in Amsterdam.

Grooves of Glory: 3 Performance Texts by Alan Brunton is a title in Bumper Books' New Zealand Playscripts series (2004). It contains three texts devised for performance with musicians, singers and members of the acclaimed Red Mole experimental theatre troupe.

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Media links and clips

  • Texts may be purchased directly from Bumper Books, PO Box 7365, Wellington South.
  • There is a bibliography in the Auckland University Library's New Zealand Literature File.

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