Robert Sullivan (poet)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Robert Sullivan

Robert Sullivan (born 1967) is a Māori writer from Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Biography and writing[edit]

Robert Sullivan is of Māori and Irish Galway descent. He belongs to the Māori tribes Ngā Puhi (Ngāti Manu/Ngāti Hau) as well as to Kāi Tahu and describes himself as multicultural.[1]

He graduated from the University of Auckland with an MA and worked as associate professor of English and director of the Creative Writing Programme at the University of Hawai'i.[2] Robert currently teaches a popular creative writing class at MIT's MSVA Campus.[3]

Robert Sullivan is a contemporary writer whose written nine books including the bestselling Star Waka, which was reprinted five times and was listed as a shortlisted in 2000 for the Montana New Zealand Book Awards. He had a few books that were on a short list and long list as well. Maui: Legends of the Outcast, illustrated by Chris Slane, was shortlisted for LIANZA Russell Clark Medal. In 2003, Captain Cook in the Underworld was long-listed for the Montana New Zealand Book Awards in the Poetry Category. In 1991, Robert did have success for his first collection, Jazz Waiata, which won PEN (NZ) Best First Book Award[4]

So far, he has published several books and collections of different style and theme - but all explore dimensions of Māori tradition as well as "contemporary urban experiences, including local racial and social concerns."[5] His writing has a post modern feel and shows acute awareness of important Aotearoa/New Zealand issues while linking them in a complex way back to the cultural past.[6]

In the poetic narrative Star Waka (1999) for example, Mr. Sullivan employs traditional Māori story-telling techniques (oral tradition) in order to link contemporary and traditional topics from Aotearoa/New Zealand with concepts and ideas from a European background. This approach allows him to study the identity relation between Māori and Pākehā within transcultural themes of voyaging, personal and national, of the poet and of Māori. In a sense, the poems in Star Waka "themselves function like a waka."[7] "Star Waka" was "lauded for its poetic flair".[2]

He is one of the editors of the online journal trout since its foundation in 1997.[8] Sullivan is also the founder of the new Journal Ika [9] which will be giving students of the Creative Writing School at Manukau Institute of Technology the opportunity to showcase their work. At the moment, Robert Sullivan is - supported by several literary awards and his successful professional career - "widely seen as one of the most important contemporary Māori poets."[10]

Writing style[edit]

Robert Sullivan's Shout Ha! is heralded as a stunning symphony of love, politics, tenderness, confession, sharpness and insight which should be in every New Zealand school library as it accounts the history and politics of the country.

Sullivan uses a wide-ranging voice who makes complex content, simple in execution. His book Cassino, in part is a song for Sullivan's grandfather who fought in Italy. Cassino is being compared to Dante's Divine Comedy with its various descents, ascents, spirals and authorial intrusions.

Like Dante, Sullivan is bringing together life on many levels - from the personal to the cultural, from the political to the emotional. Like the Italian poet, he favours a cheeky vernacular as well as an elegant phrasing. Sullivan draws upon his own loves and losses in a way that refreshes our engagement with all things human.[11]


  • Jazz Waiata (1990)
  • Piki Ake!: Poems 1990-92 (1993)
  • Maui - Legends of the Outcast (1996)
  • Star Waka (1999; German translation: Sternen-Waka, 2012)
  • Weaving Earth and Sky : Myths & Legends of Aotearoa (2002)
  • Captain Cook in the Underworld (2002)
  • Voice Carried My Family (2005)
  • Shout Ha! to the Sky (2010)
  • Cassino: City of Martyrs (2010)


  1. ^ "AENJ 1.2: A Brief Introduction". Retrieved 3 October 2012.
  2. ^ a b Green, P., and Ricketts, H., 99 Ways into New Zealand Poetry, Vintage, 2010.
  3. ^ "School of Creative Writing - Faculty of Creative Arts". 20 February 2012. Retrieved 3 October 2012.
  4. ^ "Robert Sullivan". Academy of New Zealand Literature. 2017. Retrieved 21 April 2017.
  5. ^ "New Zealand Book Council". Retrieved 3 October 2012.
  6. ^ JENSEN, K. „Sullivan, Robert.“ The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature. R. Robinson & N. Wattie (Hg.). Melbourne: Oxford UP, 1998, 519.
  7. ^ "Star Waka - Auckland University Press - The University of Auckland". Retrieved 3 October 2012.
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ "SULLIVAN, R.“ Cambridge Guide to Literature in English. D. HEAD (Hg.). Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2006, 1078.
  11. ^ "2011. Poetry Reviews: Fossicking in the past". The New Zealand Herald

External links[edit]