One more year for the Poet Laureate

10 October 2020: One more year for the Poet Laureate

Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa National Library of New Zealand is extending the term of the New Zealand Poet Laureate, David Eggleton, by an extra year due to COVID-19.

“Usually we appoint a Poet Laureate for a two-year term where they perform at live events and festivals, and work towards publishing new books of poetry,” says Chris Szekely, Chief Librarian of the Alexander Turnbull Library.

“The ability of the Laureate to deliver live, on-site performances around the country has been compromised by the lockdown and social distancing requirements. We felt it only fair to offer David the opportunity of a third year. His tenure will now end in August 2022.”

“It's an uncertain and perilous time in which we find ourselves, and it is where we will remain until we can roll back the pandemic,” says David Eggleton.

“The poet, in my book, is an essential worker, poems help the world go around, and I am grateful for this opportunity to get up, get out and sock the beachball of poetry about, for a while longer in my role as New Zealand's Poet Laureate.”

David Eggleton is in Hawkes Bay this weekend for his inauguration as Poet Laureate at Matahiwi marae, and an evening performance with fellow poets Michael O'Leary, Jenny Powell, and Kay McKenzie Cooke, at Toitoi Hawkes Bay Arts Centre.

“David has been delivering brilliantly through online channels,” says Chris Szekely.

“However, for someone who is known as an outstanding live-performance poet, it was particularly unfortunate that this aspect has been impacted by the pandemic.”

David Eggleton will be performing as part of the WORD Christchurch Spring Festival. In November, the rest of the country gets to see the Laureate perform live as part of the nationwide tour Say It With Flowers.


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The Poet Laureate role

From its beginnings as the Te Mata Estate Laureate Award in 1996 through to 2007, the Laureates were Bill Manhire, Hone Tuwhare, Elizabeth Smither, Brian Turner and Jenny Bornholdt. Since 2007, when the National Library took over the appointment of the Poet Laureate, the Laureates have been Michele Leggott, Cilla McQueen, Ian Wedde, Vincent O’Sullivan, CK Stead and Selina Tusitala Marsh.

The Laureate is expected to advocate and be a public presence for New Zealand poetry and to be involved in events that promote the reading and writing of poetry.

The Laureate is appointed by the National Library. The Award recognises an accomplished and highly-regarded poet who can advocate for New Zealand poetry and inspire current and future readers and writers of poetry.

Each Laureate receives their own tokotoko (carved orator's stick created by Jacob Scott), which symbolises their authority and status, and receives $80,000.