Bill Manhire is a prize-winning poet and fiction writer. Manhire has won several New Zealand Book Awards, a number of significant fellowships, and he was the 1997/1998 New Zealand Te Mata Estate Poet Laureate. Manhire was also honoured with the 2007 Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement. Manhire is the director of the International Institute of Modern Letters, centre for Creative Writing at Victoria University of Wellington. He has coordinated several bestselling anthologies, and his poetry and fiction is published in New Zealand, the UK, and the USA.
Creative Writing at Victoria University is now taught under the auspices of the International Institute of Modern Letters, of which Bill Manhire is director. Made possible by the financial support of American philanthropist Glenn Schaeffer, the Institute offers a range of creative writing courses, publishes the online literary journal Turbine, and is home to the Victoria University Writing Fellow.
Manhire has received two New Zealand Book Awards for Poetry: for Zoetropes (1985) and Milky Way Bar (1992). He has also twice received the Lilian Ida Smith Award for poetry, in 1987 and 1989.
My Sunshine received Book of the Year for Poetry at the 1996 Montana New Zealand Book Awards. In 1997, he was awarded the Antarctica New Zealand Arts Fellowship . The programme seeks to increase understanding of Antarctica and its international importance through the work of New Zealand's top artists.
Doubtful Sounds, published in 1999, is a collection of Manhire's nonfiction articles, essays and interviews.
In 1997, Manhire was named the Te Mata Estate New Zealand Poet Laureate. Administered by the National Library of New Zealand and funded by the New Zealand Government, the Poet Laureate is selected biennially and receives an award of $50,000 per year. What to Call Your Child (1999) contains poems written during Manhire's term as Poet Laureate, and was a finalist at the 2000 Montana New Zealand Book Awards.
Spectacular Babies (2000), edited by Karen Anderson and Bill Manhire, is an anthology of work by members of the 2000 Master of Arts in Creative Writing course, convened by Bill Manhire at the International Institute of Modern Letters.
Manhire's Collected Poems (2001) is published by Victoria University Press in New Zealand and Carcanet in the UK.
Under the Influence (2003) is one of twelve titles in the Montana Estates essay series published by Four Winds Press. The press was established by Lloyd Jones to encourage and develop the essay genre in New Zealand. In his essay, Manhire writes about growing up in pubs in the South Island.
Distinguished poets Billy Collins (U.S. Poet Laureate 2001-2003), Bill Manhire (New Zealands inaugural poet laureate) and Governor General award-winner Phyllis Webb (Canada) judged entries submitted by publishers around the world for the 2004 Griffin Poetry Prize. The C$80,000 Prize is divided between International and Canadian winners.
Bill Manhire is the recipient of the 2004 Meridian Energy Katherine Mansfield Memorial Fellowship. One of New Zealand's most long-standing and prestigious literary awards, the fellowship is offered annually to enable a New Zealand writer to work in Menton, France.
The Wide White Page: Writers Imagine Antarctica (Victoria University Press, 2004), edited by Bill Manhire, is an Antarctic anthology unlike any other. Rather than the familiar accounts of heroic explorers, scientists and travel writers, this book is about the ways in which writers around the world have imaginatively explored - and sometimes invented - the Earth's most remote and mysterious continent. The Wide White Page: Writers Imagine Antarctica was a finalist in the reference and anthology category of the 2005 Montana New Zealand Book Awards.
Manhire was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature at the 2005 Queen’s Birthday Honours. Later that year, he was also honoured as an Arts Foundation of New Zealand Laureate, a career award which aims to ensure recipients' talents are celebrated both nationally and internationally.
121 New Zealand Poems (Godwit, 2005) is an expanded edition of 100 New Zealand Poems. The first edition was published in 1993, reprinted twice in 1994 and again later in the decade. New poets appearing in this edition include Glenn Colquhoun, Kate Camp, Anna Jackson, Anne Kennedy, Emma Neale, James Brown, Chris Price, Kapka Kassabova and Sonja Yelich.
Manhire's poetry collection Lifted (Victoria University Press, 2005) received the Montana Award for Poetry at the 2006 Montana New Zealand Book Awards.
A sample from Lifted reads:
'There are mothers and fathers, Kevin, whom we barely know.
They lift us. Eventually we all shall go
into the dark furniture of the radio.'
The last lines of Bill Manhire's astonishing poem 'Kevin' lie at the heart of Lifted. These poems want urgently to know how the secular spirit can lift itself in the face of morality and human violence. They are full of richness and courage and surprise, turning from grief to curiosity; then to beauty, humour, anger, gratitude, acceptance - and once again to curiosity.
'Turning the pages of Lifted, no reader can fail to be surprised and delighted by the variety of voices and tones. Some poems are humorous ('The Confident Troubador'), others are melancholy, quizzical, confessional and satiric... Manhire shows not only his mature formal skills but his ability to look unflinchingly into the heart of things. He is a poet in which a sly sense of humour is coupled with a respect for whatever truths a poem can wring out of experience... Manhire's poems make us feel as if we are really there.' Billy Collins, Dominion Post
Manhire had a poem included in Shards of Silver (Steele Roberts, 2006), a book investigating the interplay between photography and poetry.
Manhire at 60: A Book for Bill, published in 2007 by Victoria University Press, was edited by Fergus Barrowman and Damien Wilkins. Published in a limited edition of 500 copies for Bill's birthday, this is an anthology including memoirs, essays, poems, stories and extracts from a work-in-progress which have been contributed by over 40 writers who have been inspired by Bill as writer, teacher and friend: Michele Amas, Barbara Anderson, Angela Andrews, Hinemoana Baker, Fergus Barrowman, Rachel Barrowman & R.A.K. Mason, Jenny Bornholdt, William Brandt, James Brown, Kate Camp, Catherine Chidgey, Geoff Cochrane, Nigel Cox, Jim Crace, John Davidson, Kate De Goldi, Stephanie de Montalk, Ken Duncum, Laurence Fearnley, Cliff Fell, Bernadette Hall, Dinah Hawken, Janet Holmes, Ralph Hotere & Mary McFarlane, Keri Hulme, Eirlys Hunter, Andrew Johnston, Elizabeth Knox, Robyn Marsack, Paula Morris, Gregory O’Brien, Vincent O’Sullivan, Emily Perkins, Chris Price, Jo Randerson, Michael Schmidt, Iain Sharp, Elizabeth Smither, Kathryn Walls, Peter Whiteford, and Damien Wilkins.
Bill Manhire received the 2007 Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry, worth $60,000, for his contribution to New Zealand literature.
His most recent work is The Victims of Lightning, published by Victoria University Press in 2010. Manhire’s first new book since Lifted shows him building on the themes and expanding the techniques of that prize-winning collection. In The Victims of Lightning are finely crafted lyrics, found poems, and even a bracket of songs.
- Bill Manhire’s bibliography in the Auckland University Librarys New Zealand Literature File
- Bill Manhire's introduction to the anthology Mutes and Earthquakes
- Interview with Bill Manhire by Iain Sharp
- Hypertext version of The Brain of Katherine Mansfield, with drawings by Greg O'Brien
- On-line poems by Bill Manhire at the NZ Electronic Poetry Centre
- Bill Manhire’s Arts Foundation Laureate profile