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Cilla McQueen

cillapoet laurate seal

Cilla McQueen is a major New Zealand poet. She was New Zealand Poet Laureate 2009–2011 and received the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in 2010. Her most recent collection, The Radio Room, was published by Otago University Press in November 2010.

Fire-penny, published in 2005, was her tenth collection of poetry. An associated CD, A Wind Harp, features McQueen performing a selection of her poems to the accompaniment of original music by Norm Bresanello, Rob Murphy, Ross Nichols, Mike Pearce, Jimmy Taylor, and Doug Wright, with sax by Dave Cooper. An unforgettable CD.

McQueen’s previous, now out of print, volumes are Homing In (1982), Anti Gravity (1984), Wild Sweets (1986), Benzina (1988), Berlin Diary (1990), and Crikey (1993). Published by Otago University Press and still in print are Markings (2000), Axis (2001), Soundings (2002).

Cilla McQueen's poems include themes of homeland and loss, indigeneity, colonisation and displacement. She writes as a descendant of the colonised on St Kilda in the Hebrides. Her writing reflects her engagement with the history and present reality of the Maori people of Murihiku.

Her poetry is beautifully crafted, accessible and wide-ranging – from deft playing with language to taut, formal verses.

Selected awards:

New Zealand Book Award for Poetry (for Homing In), 1983
PEN/Jessie Mackay Award for Best First Book of Poetry, 1983
Air New Zealand/PEN  Travel Award, to Australia, 1984
Robert Burns Fellowship, Otago University, 1985 & 1986
Fulbright Visiting Writer's Fellowship, Stanford University, 1985
Inaugural Australia-New Zealand Writers' Exchange Fellowship 1987
Goethe Institut Scholarship. Berlin, 1988
New Zealand Book Award for Poetry (for Benzina), 1989
New Zealand Book Award for Poetry (for Berlin Diary), 1991
Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council Scholarship in Letters, 1992
Council Member, Creative New Zealand, 1996–1998
Southland Art Foundation Artist in Residence, 1999
New Zealand Poet Laureate, 2009-2011
Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement (Poetry) 2010