Tze Ming Mok


TZE MING MOK was born in Auckland in 1978 to migrant parents. As well as being a writer of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, reviews and journalism, she makes occasional forays into political activism and full-time bureaucracy. Her writing has appeared in the NZ Listener, Sport, Meanjin, Poetry New Zealand, JAAM, and in Landfall issues 206, 207 and 208. In 2004 she was co-winner of the Landfall Essay Prize. That year she also organised a multicultural march to Parliament against racism and hate-crimes. During the year of the Tampa asylum-seeker crisis off the coast of Australia, she was a Refugee Status Officer for the New Zealand government. She has lived in Chengdu, Cairo and Wellington but always returns to Auckland, where she currently works for the New Zealand Human Rights Commission.

Mok comments: ‘Did I really write this poem? Or did he slide it across the desk to me, folded into his ID card, the price for Charon to ferry him out of Hell?

‘I’m not allowed to say. I can hear the SIS tapping on my window. There was a period of three years in which I had given up on writing, a condition initially brought on by attending a university Creative Writing class. In particular I decided to despise poetry: the stories heard daily in my job demonstrated the impossibility of its existence. In 2002, in different countries and different prisons, I interviewed two Arabic asylum-seekers who proved otherwise. The first was a professional poet – his poem is not for release, though he, like W., made it out alive.

‘It occurred to me then that if writing poetry is self-indulgent, then forgoing the writing of poetry is even more self-indulgent. Writer’s block has no place down the cell block. If there seems to be no space left in the world for poetry, write smaller poems. We can make them fit.’


Poem: An Arabic poetry lesson in Jakarta



New Zealand Book Council writer file


Press release on Landfall essay prize

Full text of ‘Race you there’, Landfall essay

Slightly non-fictional story in Meanjin’s Austral-Asian issue, ‘Hereditary fiction: the Mok Tapes’


Another Jakarta 2002 poem, ‘open fire’ (see entry under ‘words’), with photo from the International Herald tribune of the demonstration outside the Jakarta UN HQ on 5 April 2002, the author’s 24th birthday

Poetry NZ issue 28

Author’s interview with her hero Ma Jian for the NZ Listener

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