09 Aug 2017
Creative New Zealand has announced the winners of the 2017 Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement. They are internationally renowned Māori novelist Witi Ihimaera, literary historian and fine arts writer Peter Simpson and popular poet and children’s author Paula Green.
Each will be awarded $60,000 in recognition of their outstanding contribution to New Zealand literature. Witi Ihimaera will be honoured for fiction, Dr Peter Simpson for non-fiction, and Dr Paula Green for poetry.
Arts Council Chair Michael Moynahan said, “Our congratulations to this year’s recipients who are being recognised for their extraordinary legacy of literary achievement. As leaders in their respective crafts, they have engaged New Zealand readers with their story telling and have inspired other New Zealand writers to build on their literary legacy.”
The awards will be presented at a ceremony at Premier House in Wellington, on Wednesday 9 August. The 2017 Creative New Zealand Michael King Writer’s Fellowship winner, Dr Philip Norman, will also be honoured at the ceremony.
The Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement were established in 2003. Every year New Zealanders are invited to nominate their choice of a writer who has made a significant contribution to New Zealand literature in the genres of non-fiction, poetry and fiction. New Zealand writers are also able to nominate themselves for these awards.
Nominations are assessed by an expert literary panel and recommendations forwarded to the Arts Council of Creative New Zealand for approval. This year’s selection panel was Rachael King, Nicola Legat, David Eggleton and Briar Grace-Smith.
A full list of previous recipients can be found on the Creative New Zealand website.
The Creative New Zealand Michael King Writer’s Fellowship is open to established writers of any literary genre who have already published a significant body of work. Valued at $100,000, it is awarded annually for a project that will take two or more years to complete.
Creative New Zealand and Unity Books invite you to a free literary event
The recipients of the 2017 Prime Ministers Awards for Literary Achievement will read and discuss their work with author Kate De Goldi.
This is a free event at Unity Books, 57 Willis Street, Wellington on Thursday 10 August, 12.30-1.15pm. All welcome.
For media enquiries, please contact:
Senior Communications & Advocacy Adviser
Creative New Zealand
M: 027 838 8868 | DDI: (04) 498 0727
Additional notes: author biographies
2017 Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement – Fiction
Witi Tame Ihimaera-Smiler, DCNZM, QSM (Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Auckland, born Gisborne)
Born in Gisborne, Witi Ihimaera is a novelist, short story writer, filmmaker, anthologist, librettist and playwright. He is of Te Whānau a Kai, Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Porou and Tūhoe descent. He has the distinction of being the first Māori writer, in 1972, to publish both a book of short stories and a novel. His novel, The Whale Rider, became an internationally successful feature film and Māori Boy: A Memoir of Childhood won the General Non-Fiction Award at the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. His most recent books are Black Marks on the White Page, co-edited with Tina Makereti, and Sleeps Standing, with te reo translation by Hemi Kelly, about the Battle of Orakau.
Regarded as one of the world's leading indigenous writers, Witi has held numerous writing residencies and fellowships. He holds an Honorary Doctorate from Victoria University of Wellington, and in 2009 he was honoured as an Arts Foundation of New Zealand Laureate as well as the supreme Māori arts award Te Tohu mō Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu at the Creative New Zealand Te Waka Toi Awards. He was named a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2004. Last month the French Government appointed him a French Knight of the order of arts and letters (Chevalier de l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres) for his contribution to literature.
The selection panel described Witi as one of New Zealand's most important post-colonial writers, who has consistently proved to be an outstanding storyteller, celebrated as a voice for Māoritanga and a literary leader.
2017 Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement – Poetry
Dr Paula Green, MNZM (Auckland)
Paula Green is a poet, reviewer, anthologist, children’s author, book awards judge and blogger. She has published ten poetry collections, including several for children. In 2017, she was admitted to The New Zealand Order of Merit for Services to poetry and literature.
Paula has also co-edited a number of highly regarded anthologies, including 99 Ways into New Zealand Poetry, with Dr Harry Ricketts, which was short-listed for the 2010 NZ Post Book Awards. She runs two influential poetry blogs, NZ Poetry Box and NZ Poetry Shelf, and has been a judge for the NZ Post Book Awards, the NZ Post Secondary School Poetry Competition, and the inaugural Sarah Broom Poetry Prize in 2014.
Her recent publications include a collection of her own poems for children, The Letterbox Cat and Other Poems, which won Children’s Choice at the 2015 NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, and an anthology of children's verse, A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children. Her latest adult collection, New York Pocket Book, was published in 2016.
Paula has a Doctorate in Italian and was Literary Fellow at The University of Auckland (2005). She is a regular guest in New Zealand literary festivals and frequently performs and undertakes workshops in schools from Year 0 to 13.
The selection panel said Paula stood out amongst the nominees for this year’s Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Excellence in Poetry as an accomplished all-rounder, with special distinction as an author of children's poetry. They described her as “a significant figure in New Zealand poetry as an anthologist and commentator” and as a leading poet.
2017 Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement – Non-fiction
Dr Peter Simpson (Auckland, born Takaka)
Peter Simpson is a writer, editor, critic, curator and academic who has been writing about New Zealand literature, art and culture for more than 50 years. His first book, on Ronald Hugh Morrieson, was published in 1982; since then he has published eight sole-authored books, edited 12 other books, made substantial contributions to 25 other titles, published more than 100 articles in journals in New Zealand and overseas, and scores of reviews in newspapers, periodicals, scholarly journals and online.
He has taught at several universities in New Zealand and Canada between 1964 and 2008. Peter was co-founder and director of Holloway Press, 1993 -2013, publishing some 40 books. He has curated six exhibitions on Leo Bensemann and Colin McCahon for Hocken Collections, Auckland Art Gallery, Christchurch Art Gallery, Lopdell House Gallery and New Zealand Portrait Gallery.
Peter was awarded the 2012 Creative New Zealand Michael King Writer’s Fellowship. The book written during that Fellowship, Bloomsbury South: The Arts in Christchurch 1933-1953, was shortlisted for the illustrated non-fiction category of the 2017 Ockham NZ Book Awards.
The selection panel said Peter’s many books and other writing attest to his ability – both as a literary historian and as a writer on the fine arts – and that he has contributed significantly to the nation's literary culture over many years.
2017 Michael King Writer’s Fellowship
Dr Philip Norman, CNZM (Christchurch)
Award-winning author and composer Dr Philip Norman has compiled three editions of the Bibliography of New Zealand Compositions, including biographies of some 120 New Zealand composers and descriptions of 4,000 of their works.
He has co-authored, edited or contributed to numerous other books and publications on New Zealand music. From 1980-1991 he was the principal music reviewer for The Press in Christchurch, writing more than 700 reviews.
In addition to being a writer Philip has composed more than 250 works, from orchestral, chamber music and opera through to choral works, musicals and ballet. He composed music for Footrot Flats, New Zealand’s best-selling musical, and for the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s successful Peter Pan, which is shortly to receive a repeat season in Perth, Australia.
About the Michael King Fellowship 2017:
The $100,000 Michael King Fellowship has been awarded to Dr Phillip Norman to create a history of New Zealand composers and their work from the start of European settlement to present day. Philip will use the fellowship to complete a lifetime of work studying New Zealand classical music identifying influential composers, works and performances, and tracing key developments through the decades.