BRIAN TURNER’s awards include the NZ Book Award for Poetry in
1993 and the Commonwealth Poetry Prize in 1979. He was Robert Burns
Fellow at the University of Otago in 1984, and in 1985 he won the John
Cowie Memorial Award for Playwriting. In 1994 he was awarded an Arts
Council Scholarship in Letters, and in 1997 was Writer in Residence
at the University of Canterbury. In the Seventies he won the Dulux Prize
for Sports Journalism.
He is the Te Mata Estate New Zealand Poet Laureate for 2003-2005.
His most recent books are a biography of rugby legend Colin Meads,
a collection of poetry, Taking Off, and a memoir, Somebodies
and Nobodies, about growing up in southern New Zealand.
Brian Turner has had a long, active involvement in sport and recreation.
He represented New Zealand at hockey in the 1960s and played senior
cricket in Wellington and Dunedin. His interests include tramping, mountaineering
(his climbs include an ascent of Mt Cook), sailing, cycling and fishing.
He is working on a new collection of poems, and on an account of the
life and career of the former All Black rugby captain Anton Oliver.
Brian Turner was born in Dunedin in 1944. He lives in Oturehua in
the Ida Valley, Central Otago.
Turner comments: ‘Early in 2003 I was asked if I would accept
the position as the Te Mata Estate New Zealand Poet Laureate for 2003-2005.
That’s nice, I thought. However, I felt it proper to think about
it for a few days, and, when I couldn’t see any good reasons not
to accept, I rang John Buck of Te Mata and said I’d be pleased
‘A few weeks later I flew to the Hawke’s Bay for my “investiture”
– a damned nice lunch with good company, excellent food and splendid
Te Mata wines. I spent the night before the function in a local motel
where, while eating breakfast, I felt the onset of one of those feelings
that, sometimes, means a poem is in the offing. I began to write in
my notebook and, half an hour or so later, much of “Some reasons
why I got this job” sat there chortling at me. I tinkered with
it for a few minutes and shut my book. An hour or two later I had another
look at it and wondered if I might just dare read it when accepting
the Laureateship. I looked at it again before sitting down to lunch.
Generally I don’t find poems written “to order”, as
it is said, are much good. Mmm. In the end I decided to risk it.
‘As to the content and tone of the poem, clearly it’s
ironic, droll in places (I hope so), and, here and there, satiric. There’s
some self-mockery in it, something found in many of my poems, but not
often commented on. From time to time I have been irked by the number
of critics, and others, who refer to me as a “landscape”
or “nature poet”. I don’t mind those terms especially,
but they overlook a great deal of the poetry I have written. For instance,
the social and political poems, including those so-called “nature”
ones that are a reaction against the way in which “nature”
has been commodified and, in the process, often wrecked; the poems about
human relationships; the love poems, and so on. Best stop here before
I really get going and produce a prolonged whinge. But I have to admit
I saw the poem’s arrival as a chance to give a few people a mild
ticking off while at the same time providing those who had voted to
give me the Laureateship the opportunity to smile. Because? Because
I can be a mischievous bugger, so I’m told.’
Poem: Some reasons why I got this job