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Monday 27 March 2023 4:00pm

Strong Words 3 Cover websiteThe best of the Landfall Essay Competition

Selected by Lynley Edmeades and Emma Neale

The book

Strong Words 3 showcases the best of the best of Aotearoa New Zealand's contemporary essays from 2021 and 2022. Selected from entries into the Landfall Essay Competition, these essays are explorative, illuminating, provocative, beautifully written and – most of all – inspiring. Strong Words 3 is packed with Aotearoa New Zealand's most compelling new writing on contemporary issues. It is essential reading.

A central part of New Zealand's literary landscape since 1997, the annual Landfall Essay Competition is Aotearoa's most prestigious essay writing competition. Every year these essays open up new avenues of thought, explore new ways of looking at contemporary issues and bring new narratives to the forefront. Past winners include Airini Beautrais, Ashleigh Young, Gregory O'Brien, Diana Bridge, Elizabeth Smither, Tracey Slaughter, Laurence Fearnley and Alie Benge. The biennial Strong Words series was launched in 2019 and gathers the most powerful winning, shortlisted and commended Landfall Essay Competition writing within the covers of one book.

Among the rich reading featured in Strong Words 3 are the 2021 and 2022 Landfall Essay Competition winners: 'The New Man' by Andrew Dean, a politically and socially complex piece that traces Dean's ancestry and examines New Zealand's shamefully long record of anti-Semitism; and 'Lumpectomy' by Tina Makereti, a personal and political exploration of the body and its boundaries, and health care (and its boundaries) in Aotearoa.

Other essayists featured in Strong Words 3 tackle topics such as grief, lost language, poetic childhood recollections, gender, the long aftermath of colonisation, the nature of traumatic memory, and working as a comedian while solo parenting.

The contributors

Maddie Ballard, Tīhema Baker, Rachel Buchanan, Jayne Costelloe, Lynn Davidson, Andrew Dean, Charlotte Doyle, Jessica Ducey, Susanna Elliffe, Bonnie Etherington, Norman Franke, Gill James, Claire Mabey, Tina Makereti, Alexis O'Connell, Sarah Ruigrok, Maggie Sturgess, Susan Wardell

The editors

Lynley Edmeades is the author of two poetry collections, As the Verb Tenses (Otago University Press, 2016) and Listening In (Otago University Press, 2019), and a poetry and art picture book for adults, Bordering on Miraculous (Massey University Press, 2022), in collaboration with Saskia Leek. She has an MA in creative writing from the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen's University of Belfast and holds a PhD in avant-garde poetics from the University of Otago. In 2018, she was the Ursula Bethell Writer in Residence at the University of Canterbury, and she currently teaches poetry and creative writing in the English programme at the University of Otago.

Emma Neale has published six novels and five poetry collections, and edited several anthologies. She was editor of Landfall 2018–2021 and judged the Landfall Essay Competition during that period. She was selecting editor for Strong Words (2019) and Strong Words #2 (2021).

Publication details

Paperback, 215 x 165mm, 240pp aprox
ISBN 9781990048579, $35
In-store: 26 July 2023

Reviews and Interviews

Interview: Lynley Edmeades speaks to Claire Mabey about essay writing for the Spinoff Read

Interview: Lynley Edmeades speaks to Jeff Harford for Write Spot, OAR FM Listen

Review: 'The Strong Words collections, which showcase some of the competition's best entries, have thus become a snapshot of some of the country's best writing. A good essay, like a good poem, makes big points from small moments, or uses the personal to convey the universal. Strong Words 3 is packed with exceptional examples of this.' – Laura Williamson for 1964 magazine (Issue 15 Spring 2023) Read

Review: 'Overall, 'Strong Words 3' functions as a compelling snapshot of essay writing in present-day Aotearoa. The concerns animating these pieces, from confronting injustice to exploring individual identity, feel distinctly contemporary. There is a palpable sense that these essays capture the cultural tensions and contradictions of the current moment in New Zealand. Yet the collection also gestures toward continuities with the past, using essayistic styles like memoir and polemic to work through national and personal histories ... For readers seeking a lens into life in 21st-century New Zealand or an introduction to the country's contemporary literature, 'Strong Words 3' offers a vibrant cross-section.' – Chris Reed for NZ Booklovers Read

Review: 'The title of this anthology is apt. Many of these essays explore the need for strength: in grief and in fear; in becoming one’s true self; in staring down society’s disapproval; in holding feelings for another; in coming face to face with medical conditions that will alter life as one knows it. Strong Words lays down a gauntlet, and the assembled authors rise to the challenge. These are subtle, nuanced explorations of the personal and the political, and of our particular culture, place and time.' – Erica Stretton reviews Strong Words 3 for Aotearoa NZ Review of Books Read

Review: Ash Davida Jane reviews Strong Words 3 for Nine to Noon RNZ Listen

Article: Emma Neale reflects on the Landfall Essay Competition for the NZ Academy of Literature Read

Extract: Tīhema Baker's essay 'Whakapapa' extracted for the September Issue of North & South Read

Extract: Maddie Ballard's  essay 'Reasons to Learn Cantonese' extracted for Kete Books Read

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