Best New Zealand Poems 2002
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CHRIS ORSMAN was born in Lower Hutt in 1955 and now lives and writes full time in Wellington. He has two main collections of poetry published, Ornamental Gorse (Victoria University Press 1994) and South (Victoria University Press 1996 & Faber & Faber 1999) as well as four chapbooks published by his own poetry label, Pemmican Press. In 1998, along with Bill Manhire and Nigel Brown, he was one of the inaugural Artists to Antarctica, and is currently completing a new Antarctic sequence of poems based on their visit to the continent in January 1998. His poems have been published in Sport, Landfall, Takahe, and Printout, and have been represented in a number of anthologies, the latest being Flora Poetica (Chatto & Windus, London, 2002). He was the 2002 Writer in Residence at Victoria University, Wellington, attached to the International Institute of Modern Letters.

Orsman comments: ‘The poem was commissioned by the Royal Society of New Zealand to commemorate the achievement of Maurice Wilkins, New Zealand-born pioneer of DNA discovery and 1962 Nobel Laureate. It was read at King’s College, London, in December 2002, at a ceremony to mark the unveiling of an official portrait of Wilkins. Emily Perkins, expatriate novelist and short-story writer, read the poem on behalf of the author.

The poem itself is an amalgam of biographical and scientific detail, beginning with a contemplation of a vanished birthplace and moving out into specific detail of Maurice Wilkins’ scientific field (x-ray crystallography) and the extraordinary blue-print of the DNA molecule that he discovered. The poem finishes with a play of imagery around the original x-ray plate itself.’



New Zealand Book Council

Royal Society of New Zealand

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