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 the International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML), is thrilled by the announcement.
“Bill’s name is synonymous with creative writing at Victoria. His students represent more than thirty 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 recognised 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.”