Who are the most powerful figures in the new generation of New Zealand literature? The most innovative, the most awarded, the most industrious? A panel of young experts exchanged their views over Snapchat and things like that until they agreed on the top 10.
1 Hera Lindsay Bird
But not just for the 46,000+ views her poem “Keats Is Dead [etc]” gained at the Spinoff, or for the fact her debut, self-titled book of poems was the number one best-seller at Unity stores in Wellington and Auckland. She also stars in the best poetry submission video ever made – and thus beckons a new generation of young writers who New Zealand literature needs like breath.
2 Claire Mabey and Andrew Laking
The royal couple of making fun and exciting literary things happen. Their production company Pirate & Queen does the awesome LitCrawl event in Wellington – the next one is next weekend, November 12-13 – in which all sorts of writers talk, argue, recite, joke and generally blather at special events all over town.
3 Grace Taylor
Co-founded the South Auckland Poets Collective in 2008; co-founded the Rising Voices Youth Poetry Slam in 2011; and in 2013, co-founded Niu Navigations, which is committed to encouraging the publication and performance of Aotearoa and Pacific poetry. Also she does this.
4 Courtney Sina Meredith
Right now in Iowa, at the international writers programme; she works as the project manager at Manukau Institute of Techhnology arts faculty, and is the author of a book of verse Brown Girls in Bright Red Lipstick, and a book of short stories, The Tail of the Taniwha.
5 Sophie Rea
Doing all sorts of great stuff with youth poetry in Christchurch – she founded the Faultline Poetry Collective – as well as winning last year’s national Rising Voices competition. She also organised the Speaking Proud queer youth fundraiser at the WORD literary festival; according to festival director Rachael King, “feedback was that lives were saved.”
6 Aaron Hawkins
The guy behind the New Zealand Young Writers Festival, staged in Dunedin; guests at the 2015 and 2016 events read like a who’s who of who’s doing cool, interesting, challenging things these days, such as cartoonist Toby Morris, dramatist Arthur Meek, humorous person Guy Williams, and joint winners of the 2015 Wintec Press Club Best Writer in New Zealand Journalism Award, Jessica McAllen and Alex Casey.
7 Maraea Rakuraku
Maraea (Ngāti Kahungunu, Tūhoe) is a playwright, poet and broadcaster, who won the Chapman Tripp Theatre Award for Outstanding New Playwright for her first full length play, The Prospect in 2012, and this year took home a haul of three gongs at the Playmarket awards – Best Play by a Māori Writer and Best Play by a Woman Writer, and Best Play, full stop, for her work Tan-Knee.
8 Barnaby Bennett and Emma Johnson
As publishers at the Freerange Press in Christchurch, they released Don’t Dream It’s Over: Reimagining Journalism, a thoughtful, powerful collection of essays on the state and prospects of New Zealand journalism and that. Freerange also published the influential Once in a Lifetime: City-building after Disaster in Christchurch in 2014.
9 Chris Tse
Why are all the best young writers poets or playwrights? Where are the hip young novel-writing gunslingers? The blazingy talented Chis Tse was winner of the best first book of poetry at the 2016 Ockham national book awards (when he went dressed as a black swan). His work has since appeared in the Spinoff.
10 Holly Hunter
Runs the Mimicry literary journal and works as associate editor at Victoria University Press and is sometimes confused with former Green MP and Spinoff reviewer Holly Walker, and commonly mistaken, too, for the actress Holly Hunter, but is neither, and equally she isn’t Hollie Fulbrook from Tiny Ruins, though she does, like Holly Walker, also write for the Spinoff.