Elizabeth Smither is a poet, novelist and short story writer. Her numerous collections of poetry have been published alongside several novels and short story collections. Her poetic style is considered idiosyncratic while it moves beyond the self-referential into the areas of legendary characters, Catholicism and the workings of language itself. Of her poems she writes, ‘you have to use all your senses to crack them open.’ As well as receiving numerous other awards, Elizabeth Smither was named the 2002 Te Mata Poet Laureate.
Elizabeth Smither received the Lilian Ida Smith Award in 1989. In 1990, A Pattern of Marching won the New Zealand Book Award for Poetry.
Smither has published a third collection of short stories, The Mathematics of Jane Austen (1997), and a further volume of poetry, The Lark Quartet (1999). The Lark Quartet won the Montana Award for Poetry at the 2000 Montana New Zealand Book Awards.
She was named the Te Mata Poet Laureate in 2002. 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.
Listening to the Everly Brothers and Other Stories (2002). Love, romance and relationships, with an array of brilliantly drawn characters. Stephen Stratford writes '...this is as good a collection as we'll get. Thoroughly, resoundingly recommended.'
The Sea Between Us (2003) is a novel which explores the differences between Australia and New Zealand. A thread of impetuous short-lived anger runs through the lives of the Berryman family: 'there are eight sisters, but only four of us who count. I don't think I can love more than four.' The Sea Between Us was a finalist in the fiction category of the 2004 Montana New Zealand Book Awards.
Her novel Different Kinds of Pleasure (Penguin, 2006) looks at what pleasure is and how it shapes people's lives.
Smither's collection of short stories The Girl Who Proposed (Cape Catley Ltd, 2008) was on the longlist for the 2008 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award.
In 2007, Smither released two collections of poetry, The Year of Adverbs (Auckland University Press), and Horse Playing the Accordion (Ahadada books)
In 2008, Elizabeth Smither was awarded the Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry, worth $60,000.
Her most recent work is Lola, published by Penguin in 2010. After the death of loved ones, Lola Dearborn devotes her life to exploration, taking up residence in an art-deco hotel, befriending a group of musicians, reflecting on different kinds of love -- with an Italian undertaker who buries a dog with its owner, and a retired surgeon with a disruptive daughter. The work is a meditation on the exploration of love, death, music and friendship.
Elizabeth Smither was interviewed by David Hill in the anthology, Words Chosen Carefully, edited by Siobhan Harvey (Cape Catley Ltd, 2010). Her collection, The Blue Coat was published by Auckland University Press in 2013.
Smither was awarded the 2014 Janet Frame Memorial Award for Literature.
writers in schools information
Elizabeth Smither is available to talk to intermediate and secondary students. She is prepared to talk about poetry. She would prefer to talk to small groups of less than 15 students and she is able to run workshops. She is prepared to travel out of town for Writers in Schools visits if time permits.
KAPAI: Kids' Authors' Pictures and Information
Where do you live?
What kinds of books do you like to read?
Novels, thrillers, poetry and books about travel.
Who are your favourite writers?
Thom Gunn and Elizabeth Jane Howard.
Where do you get your ideas?
They usually come when I start writing.
What is the best thing about being a writer?
The pleasure of writing.
Some Special Questions for Primary School
Do you have any pets?
A marmalade cat and Australian terriers.
What is you favourite colour?
Do you have a favourite food?
What’s your favourite movie?
Jules and Jim
What games or sports do you like?
What’s the best part of being an author?
Meeting people and reading to them.
How do you make a book?
With a great deal of effort.
Where do you like to go for your holidays?
Somewhere I haven’t been in New Zealand or overseas.
What was the naughtiest thing you ever did at school?
I brought meat pies for my friends concealed in a big folded up black umbrella.
Some Questions for Secondary School
How did you start writing?
At school, mostly by enjoying English classes.
Who inspired you to start writing?
An English teacher called Miss Stewart.
What advice would you give someone wanting to be a writer?
Realise it is a lifetime job.
Is it hard to make a living as a writer in New Zealand?
Yes, you may need to have another job.
What were you like as a teenager?
Studious, mischievous, and energetic.
When did you know you were going to be a writer?
I have loved writing since I was at primary school and I used to often make up long sentences in my head and say them silently to myself. At high school my English teacher told me I should be a writer and I was so excited I jumped up and down like a Masai warrior on the sports field before going back to class.