International Institute of Modern Letters


On this page:

Bill Manhire House

27 April 2016

Tree with autumn leaves in front of Bill Manhire House, Institute of Modern Letters

Victoria University of Wellington’s International Institute of Modern Letters building will be named Bill Manhire House in recognition of Emeritus Professor Bill Manhire.This is in recognition of the exceptional service Emeritus Professor Bill Manhire has given the University and to honour his contribution to the wider world of New Zealand writing.

Damien Wilkins, Director of IIML, is thrilled by the announcement.

"Bill's name is synonymous with creative writing at Victoria. His students represent more than 30 years of teaching, and include so many of the stars of New Zealand poetry, prose and scriptwriting. He set the tone for an approach to teaching new writers that was beautifully intuitive and flexible, while also being rigorous and disciplined. Somehow you always came away from a class with Bill convinced that this was the most important thing in the world to be doing. It was like being inside a dream - but there was always a deadline too."

Bill Manhire is recognized nationally and internationally for his pioneering work in establishing the discipline of creative writing at Victoria. His famous 'Original Composition' course, which he taught for more than 25 years, attracted new writers who would go on to become leading literary figures. These include Elizabeth Knox, Barbara Anderson, Jenny Bornholdt, Kirsty Gunn, Anthony McCarten and James Brown.

In 2001 he founded the IIML and led the flagship Master's programme, which continues to produce award-winning authors such as Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton, Catherine Chidgey, Hinemoana Baker, Tusiata Avia, Ashleigh Young, Laurence Fearnley and Lawrence Patchett. In 2008 he established New Zealand's first PhD programme in creative writing. He retired from Victoria in 2013.

Bill Manhire has won every major writing award in New Zealand, including the Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement, the Katherine Mansfield Award, the New Zealand Book Award, and the Montana Book Award. He was the inaugural New Zealand Poet Laureate and he is a New Zealand Arts Foundation Laureate. In 2005, he was awarded the Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature and he also received an Honorary Doctorate from Otago University. He continues to be strongly identified with creative writing at Victoria.

Professor Jennifer Windsor, Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences, says that the naming of the IIML building as Bill Manhire House honours that legacy.

"How we name something reflects our values and aspirations. This naming will create excitement and is part of the commitment to nurture the extraordinary creative writing that the IIML fosters. It also makes visible Victoria's ongoing tradition of imaginative exploration and artistic achievement that helps mark Wellington as a creative capital."

Back to top ^

Best New Zealand Poems 2015 is live

4 April 2016

The 2015 edition of Best New Zealand Poems is launched today, introducing both established writers and new voices to the wider public.

The anthology has been published annually since 2001 by the International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML) at Victoria University of Wellington.

Poet and academic John Newton had the task of sifting through the thousands of poems published in books and journals last year in search of twenty-five that delivered what he wanted.

'I was looking for an active jolt of pleasure, that moment of finding something that really does it for you, when you can't wait to get on the phone or on Facebook, or, better still, to hot-foot it over in person, and compound the pleasure by hearing it echoed in the pleasure of the person you're sharing it with.'

Best New Zealand Poems series editor Chris Price, a senior lecturer at the IIML, says one of the contributions is from Selina Tusitala Marsh, who just last month performed for the Queen at Westminster Abbey. 'Her poem describes watching The Vampire Diaries after a day spent teaching post-colonial theory,' Ms Price says.

Diverse cultures and forms of communication feature strongly in this year's selection, demonstrating that our poetry is both rooted in the local and connected to the world. Sarah Jane Barnett's beautiful and timely poem looks at the life of a refugee from Ethiopia. Gregory O'Brien's poem attempts to gain the ear of the King of Tonga, and Alison Wong tries to decipher the language of match-making in Shanghai. Kani Te Manukura remembers Te Kooti's last stand and thinks about Aotearoa's race-time continuum, and Ashleigh Young encounters a man in Reno with the voice of 'Death's personal computer'.

Readers of John Newton's top 25 poems are also able to hear recordings of several of the poets reading their work.

Ms Price says there is a playful, wry tone to much of this year's work.

'Hera Lindsay Bird announces that "It's a bad crime to say poetry in poetry" but she does it anyway, Alexandra Hollis reminds us that Rihanna is as profound as the stars, and Bryan Walpert's title, "This poem is conversational", might be a comment on the very nature of contemporary New Zealand poetry.'

Best New Zealand Poems is published by the IIML with support from Creative New Zealand, and is hosted by the New Zealand Electronic Text Collection.

Best New Zealand Poems 2015 can be viewed at

For more information contact Chris Price on 04-463 6854 or

A media release issued by Victoria University of Wellington Communications & Marketing.

Back to top ^

Triple win for Maraea Rakuraku at Adam NZ Play Awards

13 March 2016

Adam NZ Play Award winner Maraea Rakuraku with Suli Moa, winner of Best Pacific Island Play

Tūhoe; Ngāti Kahungunu Maraea Rakuraku is the 2016 Adam NZ Play Award winner for her play Tan-Knee, which also won Best Play by a Māori Writer and Best Play by a Woman Writer at the same Awards.

Rakuraku, who is undertaking the MA in Creative Writing (Script) at Victoria's International Institute of Modern Letters this year,  is a writer, performance poet (DuskyMaidensNobleSavages), broadcaster, reviewer, producer and founder of boutique media and production house Native Agency Ltd. She formerly co-produced and co-presented RNZ's Te Ahi Kaa with Justine Murray.

Her first full-length play, The Prospect (2012), won three Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards, including New Playwright of the Year for Rakuraku. In the same year she was awarded the annual Tau Mai e Kapiti Writer in Residence award.

The first in a planned trilogy, Tan-Knee is described as 'an impressive and gripping story of a Tūhoe family. Tu returns home to re-open a boxing gym but Taneatua (aka Tan-knee) isn't as Tu remembers and not many in the town are that thrilled about his intrusion into their world. Yet, it provides welcome relief from the white vans parked up for days all over town, and the undercurrent of unsettling activity rumoured to be driven by Māori Sovereignty groups – Te Urewera Prophets aka the TameItis.'

MA in Creative Writing (Script) graduate Finnius Teppett was also awarded Highly Commended for My Dad's Boy, about a young man's relationship with his father and his own impending fatherhood.

The Adam NZ Play Award winners were announced at a presentation at Circa Theatre on 13th March. Suli Moa, winner of Best Pacific Island Play with his boxing play 12th Round, is pictured with Rakuraku at the Award ceremony. Read about all the winners at

Hear from Maraea Rakuraku and our other 2016 MA Scriptwriting students in their own words.

Back to top ^

Creative Writing graduates on Ockham New Zealand Book Awards shortlist

7 March 2016

The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards finalists have been announced and Victoria's Creative Writing graduates feature in the Fiction, Poetry and Non-Fiction categories.

David Coventry (MA in Creative Writing 2010)'s first novel, The Invisible Mile (Victoria University Press) has been shortlisted in the Fiction category and is in the running for the new $50,000 Acorn Foundation Literary Award. How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes (Auckland University Press), the debut poetry collection from Chris Tse (MA in Creative Writing 2005) is shortlisted in the Poetry category, and Lynn Jenner is a finalist in the Non-Fiction category for her genre defying Lost and Gone Away (AUP), written during her PhD Creative Writing (awarded 2013).

Four Victoria University Press authors are shortlisted. Read more about the finalists.

The winners will be announced on 10 May.

Back to top ^