Vincent O'Sullivan (New Zealand poet)

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Vincent Gerard O’Sullivan, DCNZM (born 28 September 1937, in Auckland, New Zealand) is one of New Zealand's best-known writers. He is a poet, short story writer, novelist, playwright, critic, editor, biographer, and librettist. The recipient of many literary prizes and residencies, in 2000 O’Sullivan was made a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.[1] He was awarded the Creative New Zealand Michael King Writer’s Fellowship in 2004[2] and the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in 2006.[3] He was the New Zealand Poet Laureate for the term 2013–2015.[4][5] The son of Timothy O'Sullivan (b. Tralee, Ireland) and Myra O'Sullivan (née McKean), O'Sullivan is the youngest of five. His first marriage was to Tui Rererangi Walsh, with whom he had two children, Dominic O'Sullivan (1970) and Deirdre O'Sullivan (1973).

He attended St Joseph's Primary, Grey Lynn, and Sacred Heart College, Auckland which is catholic school in Glendowie He graduated from the University of Auckland and Oxford University and lectured at Victoria University of Wellington (1963–66) and the University of Waikato (1968–78).

He served as literary editor of the NZ Listener (1979–80),[6] and then (1981–87) won a series of writer’s residencies and research fellowships in universities in Australia and New Zealand: Victoria (Wellington), Tasmania, Deakin (Geelong), Flinders (South Australia), Western Australia and Queensland. These were interrupted by a year as resident playwright at Downstage Theatre, Wellington (1983). In 1988 he resumed his academic career at Victoria University of Wellington, where he was Professor of English Literature until his retirement in 2004.[7]

He lives in Dunedin.

Awards and honours[edit]



  • 1965 Our Burning Time[10]
  • 1969 Revenants[11]
  • 1973 Bearings[12]
  • 1976 From the Indian Funeral[13]
  • 1977 Butcher & Co.[14]
  • 1980 Brother Jonathan, Brother Kafka (with prints by John Drawbridge)[15]
  • 1982 The Rose Ballroom and Other Poems[16]
  • 1982 The Butcher Papers[17]
  • 1986 The Pilate Tapes[18]
  • 1992 Selected Poems[19]
  • 1988 Seeing You Asked[20]
  • 2001 Lucky Table[21]
  • 2004Nice Morning for It, Adam
  • 2004 Homecoming - Te Hokinga Mai
  • 2007 Blame Vermeer[22]
  • 2009 Further Convictions Pending: Poems 1998–2008[23]
  • 2011 The Movie May Be Slightly Different[24]
  • 2013 Us, Then[25]
  • 2015 Being Here: Selected Poems[26]
  • 2016 And So It Is: New Poems[27]

Short stories[edit]

  • 1978 The Boy, The Bridge, The River[28]
  • 1981 Dandy Edison for Lunch and Other Stories[29]
  • 1985 Survivals[30]
  • 1990 The Snow in Spain: Short Stories[31]
  • 1992 Palms and Minarets: Selected Stories[32]
  • 2014 The Families: Stories[33]


  • 1976 Miracle: A Romance[34]
  • 1993 Let the River Stand[35]
  • 2018 All This By Chance[36]


  • 1983 Shuriken[37] (Downstage, Wellington)
  • 1983 Lysistrata (not performed)
  • 1984 Ordinary Nights in Ward 10 (New Depot, Wellington)
  • 1988 Jones and Jones[38] (Downstage, Wellington)
  • 1989 Billy[39] (Bats Theatre, Wellington)
  • 1994 The Lives and Loves of Harry and George (Downstage, Wellington)
  • 1996 Take the Moon, Mr Casement (Court Theatre, Christchurch)
  • 2003 Yellow Brides


  • 1974 Katherine Mansfield's New Zealand (revised 2013)[40]
  • 1976 James K. Baxter (New Zealand Writers and Their Work series)[41]
  • 2002 On Longing (Montana Essay Series)[42]
  • 2003 Long Journey to the Border: A Life of John Mulgan[43]

Edited works[edit]

  • 1970 An Anthology of Twentieth-Century New Zealand Poetry[44] (revised 1976 and 1987)
  • 1975 New Zealand Short Stories: Third Series[45]
  • 1983 The Oxford Anthology of New Zealand Writing Since 1945, co-editor with MacDonald P. Jackson[46]
  • 1982 The Aloe, with Prelude[47]
  • 1985 Collected Poems: Ursula Bethell[48]
  • 1988 Poems of Katherine Mansfield[49]
  • 1989 The Selected Letters of Katherine Mansfield[50]
  • 1992 The Oxford Book of New Zealand Short Stories[51]
  • 1993 Intersecting Lines: The Memoirs of Ian Milner[52]
  • 1997 New Zealand Stories: Katherine Mansfield[53]
  • 1984, 1987, 1993, 1996, 2003 The Collected Letters of Katherine Mansfield (vols. 1–5), co-editor with Margaret Scott[54]
  • 2006, 2012 The Collected Fiction of Katherine Mansfield, 1916–1922 (vols. 1–2), co-editor with Gerri Kimber[55]


  • 2002 Black Ice (with composer Ross Harris)
  • 2004 Lines from the Beach House (with composer David Farquhar)
  • 2008 The Floating Bride, the Crimson Village (with composer Ross Harris)
  • 2010 The Abiding Tides (with composer Ross Harris)
  • 2012 Songs for Beatrice: Making Light of Time (with composer Ross Harris)
  • 2014 Notes from the Front: Songs on Alexander Aitken (with composer Ross Harris)
  • 2014 Requiem for the Fallen (with composer Ross Harris)
  • 2014 If Blood Be the Price (with composer Ross Harris)
  • 2016 Brass Poppies (with composer Ross Harris)
  • 2018 Face (with composer Ross Harris)


  • 2007 Still Shines When You Think of It, edited by Bill Manhire and Peter Whiteford[56]


On writing[edit]

  • 'Frankly, I do think I’ve got a considerable gift for buggering around. And I don’t think that hurts, for a writer. I haven’t got the temperament to just be at the workface, the coalface, every day.'[57]
  • 'To me, writing is a solitary vice, really. You lock yourself in a room and don’t like anyone finding you doing it.'[57]
  • 'I'm always very impressed by writers who have a very strict regimen that they keep to. I admire it, but I certainly don't envy it.'[58]
  • 'If I may rattle the banner for a moment, poetry is hospitable to pretty much anything, other than the cosy and complacent.'[59]
  • 'I don't think many prescriptions for poetry stand up apart from one – if it isn't individual, if it's not "the cry of its occasion", then why aren't we doing something else?' [59]

On age[edit]

  • 'I just think that if you lose your capacity for being moved or angered by things that may have provoked you 20 years ago, if you've levelled off to that extent, I think the board's been playing just a bit too thin. I wouldn't care for that. I'd hate to think my last years were spent benignly on my veranda in a rocking chair, saying, "G'day" to everyone who goes past.'[58]

On war[edit]

  • 'I wouldn't say Ross [Harris] and I were obsessed with the war. It just strikes us, as I expect it does a lot of New Zealanders, as one of the major events in our history. So obviously how it affected young men at that time, and civilians and women and families, is of great interest to us because we are New Zealanders.'[60]

On Katherine Mansfield[edit]

  • 'It has always struck me as a curious thing, how readers at times so hanker to own an author, beyond carrying her books in a shoulder bag, or reading her in a library. That urge to get closer, to know what life was like when she wasn’t writing, to pick up scraps she didn’t know she had let drop.'[61]

On Ralph Hotere[edit]

  • 'The marae, the church, the school, the people. The four shaping presences for the young Hotere. Then that dark fifth, the War.'[62]
  • 'There’s a very interesting paradox at the heart of Hotere’s best work; he is the most important political painter we have and yet at the same time he is so attentive to aesthetic values.'[63]

Further reading[edit]

  • '10 Questions: Vincent O'Sullivan', New Zealand String Quartet, 20 February 2014[64]
  • 'Vincent O'Sullivan: NZ poet, author, biographer', Radio New Zealand, 28 February 2014[65]
  • 'Ross Harris and Vincent O'Sullivan', Radio New Zealand, 1 March 2016[66]
  • 'Let us now contemplate what to do with Katherine Mansfield's bones: A proposal by Vincent O'Sullivan', The Spinoff, 28 March 2017[67]
  • 'Vincent O'Sullivan's first novel in 20 years a "landmark book" for NZ literature', by Mike White, North and South, 5 November 2018[68]
  • 'The deep discomfort of remembering', by Ann Beaglehole, New Zealand Review of Books / Pukapuka Aotearoa, 6 June 2018[69]
  • All This By Chance reviewed by Nicholas Reid on, 11 March 2018 [70]
  • 'Book of the Week: The best New Zealand novel of 2018': All This By Chance reviewed by Elizabeth Alley, The Spinoff, 22 March 2018[71]
  • All This By Chance reviewed by Marcus Hobson on NZ Booklovers[72]
  • All This By Chance reviewed by Lesley McIntosh on The Reader, NZ Booksellers blog, 19 April 2018[73]
  • 'Acclaimed writers Vincent O’Sullivan and Diana Wichtel explore their very different approaches to representing the Holocaust', Radio New Zealand, 26 December 2018[74]
  • 'The Confession Box: Vincent O'Sullivan', New Zealand Herald, 11 May 2019 [75]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Knights and Dames of the New Zealand Order of Merit". Knights and Dames of the New Zealand Order of Merit. Retrieved 2019-06-24.
  2. ^ "Vincent O'Sullivan awarded CNZ's Michael King Fellowship". The Big Idea. 2004-06-21. Retrieved 2019-06-24.
  3. ^ "Prime Minister's Awards for literary achievement". Retrieved 2019-06-24.
  4. ^ Monday; August 2014, 11; Day, 5:00 pm Press Release: National Poetry. "NZ celebrates poetry with National Poetry Day on 22 August | Scoop News". Retrieved 2019-06-24.
  5. ^ Publications, Europa (2003). International Who's Who of Authors and Writers 2004. Psychology Press. ISBN 9781857431797.
  6. ^ "New Zealand Book Council". Retrieved 2019-06-25.
  7. ^ "Vincent O'Sullivan |". Retrieved 2019-06-26.
  8. ^ "Previous winners". Creative New Zealand. Retrieved October 24, 2013.
  9. ^ "Video: 2016 Honoured New Zealand Writer: Vincent O'Sullivan - Look & Listen • Auckland Writers Festival". Retrieved 2019-06-24.
  10. ^ O'Sullivan, Vincent (1965). Our Burning Time. Wellington: Prometheus Books.
  11. ^ O'Sullivan, Vincent (1969). Revenants. Wellington: Prometheus Books.
  12. ^ O'Sullivan, Vincent (1973). Bearings. Wellington: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0196400104.
  13. ^ O'Sullivan, Vincent (1976). From the Indian Funeral. Dunedin: John McIndoe. ISBN 0908565216.
  14. ^ O'Sullivan, Vincent (1977). Butcher & Co. Wellington; Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195580230.
  15. ^ O'Sullivan, Vincent (1980). Brother Jonathan, Brother Kafka. Wellington: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195580478.
  16. ^ O'Sullivan, Vincent (1982). The rose ballroom and other poems. Dunedin, N.Z.: John McIndoe. ISBN 0868680494. OCLC 11051203.
  17. ^ O'Sullivan, Vincent, (1982). The butcher papers. O'Sullivan, Vincent. Auckland, N.Z.: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195580907. OCLC 12475774.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  18. ^ O'Sullivan, Vincent (1986). The Pilate Tapes. Auckland: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195581601.
  19. ^ O'Sullivan, Vincent (1992). Selected Poems. Auckland: Oxford University Press. ISBN 019558242X.
  20. ^ O'Sullivan, Vincent, (1998). Seeing you asked. Wellington [N.Z.]: Victoria University Press. ISBN 0864733526. OCLC 40679012.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  21. ^ O'Sullivan, Vincent, (2001). Lucky table. Wellington [N.Z.]: Victoria University Press. ISBN 0864734069. OCLC 48479582.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  22. ^ O'Sullivan, Vincent, (2007). Blame Vermeer. Wellington [N.Z.]: Victoria University Press. ISBN 9780864735515. OCLC 156817044.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  23. ^ O'Sullivan, Vincent (2009). Further Convictions Pending: Poems 1988–2008. Wellington: Victoria University Press. ISBN 9780864736062.
  24. ^ O'Sullivan, Vincent. (2011). The movie may be slightly different. Wellington [N.Z.]: Victoria University Press. ISBN 9780864736437. OCLC 720632906.
  25. ^ O'Sullivan, Vincent,. Us, then. Wellington. ISBN 9780864738929. OCLC 842385729.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  26. ^ O'Sullivan, Vincent,. Being here : selected poems. Wellington. ISBN 9780864739315. OCLC 921828357.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  27. ^ O'Sullivan, Vincent (2016). And so it is. Wellington: Victoria University Press. ISBN 9781776560592.
  28. ^ O'Sullivan, Vincent (1978). The boy, the bridge, the river. Dunedin, N.Z.: J. McIndoe. ISBN 0589011898. OCLC 5028977.
  29. ^ O'Sullivan, Vincent (1981). Dandy Edison for Lunch and Other Stories. Dunedin: John McIndoe. ISBN 0868680354.
  30. ^ O'Sullivan, Vincent (1985). Survivals and other stories. Wellington: Port Nicholson Press. ISBN 0868615463.
  31. ^ O'Sullivan, Vincent. (1990). The snow in Spain : short stories. Wellington, N.Z.: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 0046140115. OCLC 22273782.
  32. ^ O'Sullivan, Vincent. (1992). Palms and minarets : selected stories. Wellington [N.Z.]: Victoria University Press. ISBN 0864732309. OCLC 26935434.
  33. ^ Vincent O'Sullivan (1 October 2014). The Families. Victoria University Press. ISBN 978-0-86473-995-7.
  34. ^ O'Sullivan, Vincent (1976). Miracle: A Romance. Dunedin: John McIndoe. ISBN 0908565143.
  35. ^ O'Sullivan, Vincent,. Let the river stand. Auckland. ISBN 9780143573807. OCLC 947774990.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  36. ^ Vincent O'Sullivan (15 June 2018). All This By Chance. Victoria University Press. ISBN 978-1-77656-140-7.
  37. ^ O'Sullivan, Vincent (1985). Shuriken. Victoria University Press. ISBN 9780864730107.
  38. ^ O'Sullivan, Vincent (1989). Jones & Jones. Wellington [N.Z.]: Victoria University Press. ISBN 0864730942. OCLC 25074658.
  39. ^ O'Sullivan, Vincent (1990). Billy. Victoria University Press. ISBN 9780864732057.
  40. ^ O'Sullivan, Vincent. (2013). Katherine Mansfield's New Zealand. Wellington, N.Z.: Steele Roberts Aotearoa. ISBN 9781877577055. OCLC 827970754.
  41. ^ O'Sullivan, Vincent. (1976). James K. Baxter. Baxter, James K. Wellington [N.Z.]: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195580109. OCLC 3120442.
  42. ^ O'Sullivan, Vincent. (2002). On longing. Jones, Lloyd, 1955-. Wellington [N.Z.]: Four Winds Press. ISBN 0958237514. OCLC 59360352.
  43. ^ O'Sullivan, Vincent,. Long journey to the border : a life of John Mulgan (Second ed.). Wellington, New Zealand. ISBN 9781927131329. OCLC 746765881.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  44. ^ An anthology of twentieth century New Zealand poetry. O'Sullivan, Vincent. (3rd ed.). Auckland [N.Z.]: Oxford University Press. 1987. ISBN 0195581636. OCLC 16626548.CS1 maint: others (link)
  45. ^ O'Sullivan, Vincent (1975). New Zealand Short Stories: Third series. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195580001.
  46. ^ The Oxford book of New Zealand writing since 1945. Jackson, MacDonald P. (MacDonald Pairman),, O'Sullivan, Vincent,. Auckland, N.Z.: Oxford University Press. 1983. ISBN 0195580974. OCLC 9832361.CS1 maint: others (link)
  47. ^ Mansfield, Katherine, 1888-1923. (1982). The aloe : with, Prelude. O'Sullivan, Vincent., Mansfield, Katherine, 1888-1923. Wellington, N.Z.: Port Nicholson Press. ISBN 090863501X. OCLC 9571129.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  48. ^ Bethell, Ursula, 1874-1945. (1997). Collected poems. O'Sullivan, Vincent. Wellington [N.Z.]: Victoria University Press. ISBN 0864733070. OCLC 38587538.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  49. ^ Mansfield, Katherine, 1888-1923. Poems of Katherine Mansfield. O'Sullivan, Vincent,. Auckland, N.Z. ISBN 019558192X. OCLC 21412457.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  50. ^ Katherine Mansfield, Selected Letters. Clarendon Press. 1989. ISBN 0198185928.
  51. ^ The Oxford book of New Zealand short stories. O'Sullivan, Vincent. Auckland, N.Z.: Oxford University Press. 1992. ISBN 0195582527. OCLC 27762580.CS1 maint: others (link)
  52. ^ Milner, Ian. (1993). Intersecting lines : the memoirs of. O'Sullivan, Vincent. Wellington [N.Z.]: Victoria University Press. ISBN 0864732511. OCLC 34764456.
  53. ^ Mansfield, Katherine (2013-10-04). New Zealand Stories: Mansfield Selections. Penguin Random House New Zealand Limited. ISBN 9781775535003.
  54. ^ O'Sullivan, Vincent; Scott, Margaret (2008-06-05). The Collected Letters of Katherine Mansfield: Volume 5: 1922. OUP Oxford. ISBN 9780191541827.
  55. ^ The Collected Fiction of Katherine Mansfield, 1916–1922, vol. 2. Edinburgh University Press. 2012. ISBN 9780748642755.
  56. ^ Peter Whiteford
  57. ^ a b Noted. "Vincent O'Sullivan's first novel in 20 years a 'landmark book' for NZ literature". Noted. Retrieved 2019-06-25.
  58. ^ a b "The Confession Box: Vincent O'Sullivan". 2019-05-10. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 2019-06-25.
  59. ^ a b "First day on the beat". Retrieved 2019-06-25.
  60. ^ "Requiem for the fallen". Otago Daily Times Online News. 2014-10-03. Retrieved 2019-06-25.
  61. ^ "Let us now contemplate what to do with Katherine Mansfield's bones: a proposal by Vincent O'Sullivan". The Spinoff. 2017-03-28. Retrieved 2019-06-25.
  62. ^ Noted. "Ralph Hotere: Coming Home - The Listener". Noted. Retrieved 2019-06-25.
  63. ^ "04. Vincent O'Sullivan – Cultural Icons". Retrieved 2019-06-25.
  64. ^ "News & Reviews » NZSQ". Retrieved 2019-06-25.
  65. ^ "Vincent O'Sullivan - NZ Poet, author, biographer". RNZ. 2014-02-28. Retrieved 2019-06-25.
  66. ^ "Ross Harris and Vincent O'Sullivan". RNZ. 2016-03-01. Retrieved 2019-06-25.
  67. ^ "Let us now contemplate what to do with Katherine Mansfield's bones: a proposal by Vincent O'Sullivan". The Spinoff. 2017-03-28. Retrieved 2019-06-24.
  68. ^ Noted. "Vincent O'Sullivan's first novel in 20 years a 'landmark book' for NZ literature". Noted. Retrieved 2019-06-24.
  69. ^ Books, N. Z. (2018-06-06). "The deep discomfort of remembering, Ann Beaglehole". New Zealand Review of Books Pukapuka Aotearoa. Retrieved 2019-06-24.
  70. ^ "Book review: All This By Chance by Vincent O'Sullivan". Stuff. Retrieved 2019-06-24.
  71. ^ Alley, Elizabeth (2018-03-22). "Book of the Week: The best New Zealand novel of 2018". The Spinoff. Retrieved 2019-06-24.
  72. ^ "Post | NZ Booklovers". nzbooklovers. Retrieved 2019-06-24.
  73. ^ booksellersnz (2018-04-19). "Book Review: All This By Chance, by Vincent O'Sullivan". Retrieved 2019-06-24.
  74. ^ "Acclaimed writers Vincent O'Sullivan and Diana Wichtel explore their very different approaches to representing the Holocaust". RNZ. 2018-12-18. Retrieved 2019-06-25.
  75. ^ "The Confession Box: Vincent O'Sullivan". 2019-05-10. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 2019-06-24.

External links[edit]

Cultural offices
Preceded by
Ian Wedde
New Zealand Poet Laureate
Succeeded by
C. K. Stead