Brian Turner is a poet, essayist, biographer and editor. As one of New Zealand's most significant writers on landscape, environmentalism and sport, Turner brings a fresh perspective to nature poetry. Brian Turner was appointed as the fourth Te Mata Estate New Zealand Poet Laureate in 2003. His work is frequently anthologised in collections of poetry and literary sports writing. He has published numerous poetry collections, as well as works of non-fiction.
Place of residence: Otago
In 1984, Brian Turner was Robert Burns Fellow at the University of Otago. In addition to his recognition for Beyond (John McIndoe, 1992), Turner won the 1993 New Zealand Book Award for Poetry, now known as the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, and in 1997 he was selected for the Ursula Bethell Residency in Creative Writing, designed to foster New Zealand writing by providing a full-time opportunity for a writer to work on creative writing in an academic environment.
Brian Turner has published two sporting biographies; On the Loose (Longacre Press, 1998) is the authorised biography of rugby star Josh Kronfeld, and Meads (Hodder Moa Beckett, 2002) is the biography of All Black legend, Colin Meads. He co-wrote Lifting the Covers (Longacre Press, 1997) with his brother and former New Zealand representative cricketer Glenn Turner.
Turner's essays include work for the prize-winning book of paintings Timeless Land: reproductions of paintings by Grahame Sydney (Longacre Press, 2001), and a long introductory piece on New Zealanders increasingly tenuous relationships with nature for Scott Freeman's New Zealand Photographs (Craig Potton Publishing, 2001). Further creative non-fiction works not included in the Oxford entry are Inside – with Anton Oliver (Hachette Livre, 2005); Into the Wider World: A Back Country Miscellany (Random House, 2008); and Boundaries: People and Places of Central Otago (Penguin Random House, 2015) which includes a series of poems, essays and interviews relating to his home town.
Brian Turner’s poetry has received widespread recognition. Taking Off (Victoria University Press, 2001) made the final three in the Poetry category of the 2002 Montana NZ Book Awards, now known as the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. The poems are of separation, the relationship with his ageing father, departed friends and of living life in Central Otago.
One of his poems "Semi-Kiwi" was selected for the online collection by the International Institute of Modern Letters, Best New Zealand Poems 2001. "Some reasons why I got this job" was chosen for Best New Zealand Poems 2003. "Chances of Revelation" was chosen for Best New Zealand Poems 2004. Best New Zealand Poems 2005 included Turner's "Cycling in the Maniototo".
Brian Turner was awarded the 2009 Lauris Edmond Award for Distinguished Contribution to Poetry. Also in 2009, he received the Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry, worth $60,000, in recognition of significant contribution to New Zealand literature.
Somebodies and Nobodies (Random House, 2002) presents Brian Turner's view of his world; the landscape, principles and people by which he was surrounded; his own sporting achievements; and his entry into the world of books. Somebodies and Nobodies was longlisted for the Montana Medal for Non-Fiction Biography Category in the 2003 Montana New Zealand Book Awards.
Brian Turner was honoured as the 2003 Te Mata Estate Poets Laureate, now known as the New Zealand Poets Laureate. Administered by the National Library of New Zealand, the Poet Laureate is selected biennially and receives an award of $50,000 per year. The fruits of Brian Turner's two-year tenure as Laureate were published in Footfall (Random House, 2005). He writes frankly and perceptively of the delicate relationships between people, and his work evokes the nature and depth of the attachment of people to places. It was nominated in the 2006 shortlist for the Montana New Zealand Book Awards. His poem, "The Great Where are We" appeared in The Six Pack, the sampler of New Zealand writing from New Zealands inaugural Book Month publication in 2006.
Turner's ongoing love affair with his Central Otago home is at the heart of Just This (Victoria University Press, 2009). Just This won the Poetry Award at the 2010 New Zealand Post Book Awards, now known as the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.
In 2011, Victoria University Press released Turner's collection Inside Outside. Love poems and elegies keep company with poems of satire, protest and metaphysical speculation. The book concludes with “Post-operative”, a raw and risky sequence written in the wake of major surgery.
Brian Turner’s poetry collection, Elemental: Central Otago Poems (Godwit/Random House, 2012) is accompanied by evocative images from well-known Central Otago photographer Gilbert Van Reenan. Turner won the 2014 Caselberg Trust International Poetry Prize.
Night Fishing (Victoria University Press, 2016) is Brian Turner’s latest poetry publication, which centres on friendship, mortality and home. Night Fishing is defined by Turner's unmistakable feeling, precision and insight.
Last Updated December 2016
- Brian Turner also writes articles for The Spinoff
- Brian Turner on Poetry Archive
- Review of Boundaries by Stuff
- Interview with Brian Turner on Radio New Zealand
- Twelve Questions with Brian Turner for NZ Herald
- Review of Night Fishing by Harry Ricketts on Radio New Zealand