Cilla McQueen

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Cilla McQueen
Born Priscilla Muriel McQueen
(1949-01-22) 22 January 1949 (age 68)
Birmingham, West Midlands, England, United Kingdom
Occupation Poet
Spouse Ralph Hotere (m. 1974–86)

Priscilla Muriel "Cilla" McQueen (born 22 January 1949 in Birmingham, England) is a poet and three-time winner of the New Zealand Book Award for Poetry.[1][2]

Early years and education[edit]

McQueen's family moved to New Zealand when she was four. She was educated at Columba College in Dunedin and University of Otago (Master's with first-class Honours in 1971).[3] Awarded honorary Doctorate in Literature by University of Otago in 2008.[4]


A poet and artist, she has published fourteen collections, including a CD, of her poetry. In 2009[5] she was named New Zealand Poet Laureate. She also received the Prime Minister's Awards for Literary Achievement (Poetry) in 2010.[6] Other awards include: NZ Book Award for Poetry 1983, 1989 and 1991; Robert Burns Fellowship at Otago University 1985 & 1986; Fulbright Visiting Writer’s Fellowship 1985; Inaugural Australia-New Zealand Writer’s Exchange Fellowship 1987; Goethe Institute Scholarship to Berlin 1988; NZ Queen Elizabeth Arts Council Scholarship in Letters 1992. Her most recent works are a CD of McQueen reading her poems ("A Wind Harp", from Otago University Press), a 2010 volume of new poems and drawings "The Radio Room" (Otago University Press), "Edwin's Egg", a poetic novella (2014, Otago University Press), "An Island", a letterpress edition (2014, Mirrorcity Press) and In a Slant Light, a poet's memoir (2016, Otago University Press).

In 1999 McQueen was awarded the Southland Art Foundation Artist in Residence award, which allowed her to develop both poetry and painting simultaneously. Recent exhibitions of her art work include "Picture Poem", works by Cilla McQueen and Joanna Paul, at the Hocken Library, Dunedin, 2015 and an exhibition of intuitive musical scores, "What Happens", at the Brett McDowell Gallery, Dunedin, 2015.

Cilla McQueen's poems include themes of homeland and loss, indigeneity, colonisation and displacement. She writes as a descendant of the colonised on St Kilda in the Hebrides. Her writing also reflects her engagement with the history and present reality of the Maori people of Murihiku.

Personal life[edit]

McQueen was married to New Zealand artist Ralph Hotere from 1973 until the 1990s, and together they set up a studio and living space at Careys Bay, near Port Chalmers. She currently lives in Bluff, at the southern tip of New Zealand’s South Island.


McQueen's work includes a variety of poetry books and poems over the past twenty-five years, including these volumes:[7]

Memorial plaque dedicated to Cilla McQueen in Dunedin, on the Writers' Walk on the Octagon
  • 1982: Homing In
  • 1984: Anti Gravity
  • 1986: Wild Sweets
  • 1988: Benzina
  • 1990: Berlin Diary
  • 1993: Crikey
  • 2000: Markings, Otago University Press
  • 2001: Axis, Otago University Press
  • 2002: Soundings, Otago University Press
  • 2005: Fire-penny, Otago University Press
  • 2006: A Wind Harp (compact disc)
  • 2010: "The Radio Room", Otago University Press
  • 2014: "Edwin's Egg", Otago University Press
  • 2014: "An Island", letterpress edition, Mirrorcity Press
  • 2016: In a Slant Light, Otago University Press


External links[edit]

Cultural offices
Preceded by
Michele Leggott
New Zealand Poet Laureate
Succeeded by
Ian Wedde