William Direen

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William Direen
Direen at Kawakawa Bay, New Zealand, on cover of book of poems written there.
Direen at Kawakawa Bay, New Zealand, on cover of book of poems written there.
Background information
Also known asBill Direen
  • Musician
  • Poet
  • Critic
  • vocals
  • guitar
Years active1975–present
Associated acts

William (Bill) Direen (born 1957) is a New Zealand writer and performer. He graduated from Canterbury University (Christchurch) after gaining the John Tinline Prize (1980)[1] and M.A. Hons. (1st, 1982).[2] He directed Blue Ladder Theatre at 87 Cashel Street,[3] Christchurch,[4][5][6] moving later to produce a series of experimental musicals in Wellington.[7] Later writing (1994–present) ranges from criticism[8] and speculative fiction[9] to lo-fi and phonaesthetic poetry.[10] From 2006 to 2017 he edited the trans-cultural literary magazine Percutio, "dedicated to aspects of the creative process and to works that bridge cultures".[11] His music activities throughout the decades include groups The Bilders and the trio Ferocious. He has toured USA,[12] Europe,[13] Serbia[14] and Australia,[15] has strong ties with France, and now lives in Otago, New Zealand.[16] He is the subject of a documentary, Bill Direen, A Memory of Others, directed by Simon Ogston (2017) (Official trailer).


  • M.A.L.A, spoken and sung poems integrated in collaboration with musicians Steve Cournane and William Henry Meung. The full title of the release is Move Along, Love Among. The texts were published in a 26pp accompanying brochure.
  • Ferocious, texts integrated in collaboration with musicians Mark Williams and Johannes Contag, published in booklet accompanying audio release. (20pp, RAT D-095 2020; UPC 822601400955).
  • Road Runner, a poetic "record and testament to [...] a twelve date tour of Eastern USA".[17] (40 pp, 2020).
  • NS USAAUS RZ, a sampler of poetry and prose extracts from novels from 2006 to 2019, sold during tours of Serbia, USA, Australia and NZ (44pp, 2019).
  • EN WOLFSKEHL ZU, a poetic tribute to the life of Karl Wolfskehl in New Zealand (1938–48) and to his partner in New Zealand, Dr. Margot Ruben (20pp, 2019).
  • Enclosures 2–4, further titles in the Enclosures series containing essay, song lyrics, fiction, interview, diary (of an outpatient), experimental fiction, travel diary, creative essay ISBN 978-09951010-05, auto-biography, poetry, fiction, science fiction (zootopia) and utopian vision ISBN 979-10-91280-04-4. 2016–2018. Enclosures info
  • Christchurch, Canal City, futuristic utopian vision of a Christchurch preserving historical suburban identities, with elevated trains, networks of canals and other approaches to organising a new society. Published in Percutio 2014, Nr. 8.
  • The Book of Flanagan Christchurch pre-history, flora and fauna, arrival of humans and recent events including the Christchurch earthquakes. Edition of one. Exhibited at Christchurch Art Gallery as part of larger exhibition containing many further booklets filled by guests, conceived by artist Scott Flanagan, 2011.
  • Versions Translations (Poetry, Kilmog Press, 2014). Responses to a range of European language poems, later enlarged and published with an introduction discussing each poem, in 'Percutio 2017'.
  • Utopia Rag (Novel, Tank Press, 2014). Reissue of the road novel of 2002, set in the South Island of New Zealand.
  • The Ballad of Rue Belliard (Novel, The Writers Group, 2013). Author name, Guillaume Direen. An experimental romance set within a community on the outer perimeter of Paris. Entire issue of ISSN 1175-9313 No. 48.
  • Wormwood (Novel, Titus Books, 2012). Re-edition of the 1997 experimental novel set in Berlin.
  • Tourtagebuch (Diary, Titus Books, 2012). ISBN 979-10-91280-00-6. German translation by Arno Loeffler of Direen's 1994 personal diary of a European performance tour.
  • Fallen to a Field. Poem in five parts recorded with Jonathan Crayford (piano) at NZ Embassy in Paris. 30 mins. Broadcast Radio New Zealand Concert, 10 July 2012. Percutio 2011.
  • Dunedin Poems (Kilmog Press, 2011). ISBN 978-0-9864665-5-7
  • Devonport, A Diary Diary impressions of Devonport, Auckland, during tenure of the University of Auckland Fellowship at the Michael King Writers Centre in 2010. (Signalman's House Series Nº.1, Holloway Press, University of Auckland, 2011) ISBN 978-0-9864618-0-4
  • L. A novella, set in New Zealand in the midst of guerrilla warfare between two economic factions; the world has been reshaped after geological upheavals. Published in an anthology of NZ speculative fiction writers A Foreign Country. (Random Static. Anna Caro & Juliet Buchanan, editors). 2010. ISBN 978-0-473-16916-9
  • Enclosures. First work in the Enclosures series, containing Jonah (at Kapiti), The Stadium (history of a people confined to a biosphere), a folk tale and autobiographical content. 2010 & 2008 (1st edition) ISBN 978-1-877441-06-6 Enclosures (1) info
  • Song of the Brakeman (Novel, 2006). Apocalyptic vision of a future South Pacific. Science fiction novel. (Titus Books) ISBN 0-9582586-7-8
  • New Sea Land, long poem with a triple focus, upon the new (childhood), land and ocean, which accumulates refrains of acclamatory word-groupings relating to New Zealand culture or history. ISBN 978-0-958258-64-7
  • Coma (three novellas, 2005). 'Digging Ground', a tale of separation and momentary reunion, 'Sunshower', a monologue of an abusive encounter on a country road, and 'Coma', a life-thread recounted by a young woman in a drug-related blackout.
  • Jules (Novel, 2003). 24 hours in the life of a Parisian art teacher, who is hallucinating characters from the paintings he researches. (Alpha Books) ISBN 9780958326643
  • Onaevia (Fable, 2002). Short history and mythology of an imaginary land. (Alpha Books) ISBN 0-9583266-0-6
  • Nusquama (also published as Utopia Rag), 2002. Several stories told in different voices, describing the family histories of a musician (Mike) and of his spouse (Fay) up until the first person monologue of their daughter, victim of a rape. The stories are interlaced with that of the apparently accidental death of Fay's father when she was a child. Nusquama was translated into German by Arno Loeffler in 2005 (Titus Books ISBN 9780958253451).
  • Wormwood (short novel), 1997. Tale of a refugee from the Balkan wars of the 1990s, his affair with a Berlin woman (originally from West Germany), and his involvement with a criminal group originally from West Berlin, which wishes to control profitable areas in former East Berlin. Published in its entirety in SPORT 18 [18] 1997; reissued in chapbook form to be sold at performances; thereafter translated into Serbian (Pelen) by Milan Pupezin for Partizanska knjiga in 2019.[19]
  • Editor Percutio, ISSN 1953-1427, a trans-cultural literary annual (poetry, fiction extracts, translations & versions, essays, reviews and history). 2006, −07, −08, −09, −10, −11, −12, −13, −14, −15. 16, 17. Guest Editor of Landfall No. 219 'On Music' (ISSN 0023-7930). ISBN of Landfall #219 as separate book ISBN 978-1-877372 98-8; brief No. 36 and No. 42 (ISSN 1175-9313).


  • German: Die Fabrik (The Factory) in the collection Dies ist eine wahre Geschichte: Neuseelandische Autoren in Berlin, translated by Cornelia C. Walter,[20] DAAD Berliner Kunstlerprogramm, 2002. 109pp. ISBN 978-3893571017. 114 pages, 10 images.[21]
  • German: Nusquama (English title Nusquama/Utopia Rag, 2002) "aus dem neuseelaendischen Englisch von Arno Loeffler". 2005.
  • German: Tourtagebuch (Tour Diary), translated by Arno Löffler. ISBN 979-10-91280-00-6. 2012.
  • French: La princess et le musicien (The Princess and the Musician, 2008), in Temporel, translated by Anne Mounic. 2009.[22]
  • Serbian: Pelen (Wormwood, 1997), translated by Milan Pupezin. Partizanska Knjiga, Kikinda, 2019.[23]

Awards and fellowships[edit]

  • Royal Society Award for Secondary School Science, 1972 (now The Prime Minister's Future Scientist Prize)[24]
  • A.T.C.L. (teacher), Speech and Drama, 1974.[25]
  • John Tinline Prize for English, 1980, Canterbury University, Christchurch, NZ.[1]
  • M.A. Hons (1st Class), 1982, Canterbury University, Christchurch, NZ.[2]
  • University of Auckland Writers Resident at the Michael King Centre, 2010.[11]

Critical responses[edit]

  • Early theatre work (1981–87): "hard driving rhythms and surreal imagery".[26]
  • James K. Baxter's Three Mimes "receive[d] intelligent and effective treatment".[27]
  • To Bitumen (play) "an evocative memory piece… strong on physical sensations".[28]
  • To Fowkes Alive (music-theatre): "a struggle against primeval and futuristic obstacles",[29] "a gentle 'musical delirium' which raises smiles rather than laughter",[30] "the surrealistic tale of a 'petrolhead' whose life flashes before his eyes the moment that he dies in a violent accident"[31]
  • To Dial a Claw (music-theatre): "a living experiment in alternative staging";[32]
  • To Raoul (song cycle): "an exploration of exploitation",[33] a story told "from its beginnings in the wastelands of kiwi suburbia to its chilly… conclusion.".[34]
  • To Wormwood: "Entropy and death read as metaphors for the implosion of post-war Europe and the failure of capitalism.".[35]
  • To Nusquama: "A well-written often humorous paradigm for the 21st century".[36]
  • To The Impossible: "Direen's heightened ear for absurdity serves this collection well"[37]
  • To Jules: "Romantic stereotypes collide noisily with modern realities and growing older means a confused prostate and even more complexing emotions. Jules is the story of a man at life's pivotal point.".[38] "It's a delightful book, but it's a book to read as series of literary compositions."[39] Jules was also described as "an indolent digression through European culture, art and Paris."[40]
  • To the novellas: "a quick and devastating appearance"[41]
  • To Song of the Brakeman: "a vividly conceived world here, manifesting slowly and brilliantly through its accumulating signs"[42]
  • To Versions Translations: "the dark-tinted heart of the night, in the dense heart of the shade and very centre of the wind." Jacques Coulardeau imaginative critique, 2014.
  • To Versions Translations: "uses lovely – what I think of as reverse or encapsulating – cadences." Jan Kemp criticism, 2014.
  • To the documentary 'A Memory of Others': "[situates] him within the 20th century poetic and wider literary traditions".[43]


  1. ^ a b "Scholarships at UC | University of Canterbury". www.canterbury.ac.nz.
  2. ^ a b "Graduate Search - Alumni Association | University of Canterbury". The University of Canterbury.
  3. ^ "a genuine alternative theatre", Dr. Richard Corballis, NZ Times 14/10/1984
  5. ^ "a chamber version of grand guignol" Richard Corballis, NZ Times 14/10/1984
  6. ^ "Bill Direen Théâtre Les Cenci d'après Shelley et Artaud - Vidéo Dailymotion". Dailymotion.
  7. ^ Bernadette Rae, NZ Herald, 25 July 1992.
  8. ^ https://landfallreview.com/daring-to-take-the-leap-into-clarity/ Review of "Karl Wolfskehl, A Poet in Exile" by Friedrich Voit, Cold Hub Press, 2019.
  9. ^ https://mairangibay.blogspot.com/2019/10/millennials-4-song-of-brakeman-2006.html
  10. ^ https://www.rnz.co.nz/concert/programmes/newhorizons/audio/2018747871/bill-direen-s-ferocious
  11. ^ a b Centre, Michael King Writers (2 August 2018). "William (Bill) Direen: 2010 University of Auckland Writers Residency".
  12. ^ https://www.nashvillescene.com/music/features/article/21096932/bill-direen-keeps-learning-about-himself-through-others
  13. ^ https://taz.de/!1515402/
  14. ^ https://www.partizanskaknjiga.com/knjige/pelen-bil-dirin
  15. ^ http://wellington.scoop.co.nz/?p=51222 "a momentary Melbourne band of Barry Stockley, Jess McCann and Tama Stockley"
  16. ^ https://landfallreview.com/stoats-of-otago/
  17. ^ "Road Runner". Flying Out.
  18. ^ "Sport 18". 6 May 2011.
  19. ^ "Pelen - Bil Dirin". partizanska knjiga.
  20. ^ https://www.berliner-kuenstlerprogramm.de/de/veroeffentlichungen.php
  21. ^ https://www.berliner-kuenstlerprogramm.de/en/veroeffentlichungen.php
  22. ^ https://temporel.fr/Bill-Direen-prose
  23. ^ https://www.knjizara.com/Pelen-Bil-Dirin-155206
  24. ^ "Medals and awards search". Royal Society Te Apārangi.
  25. ^ "Diploma exams | Trinity College London". www.trinitycollege.com.
  26. ^ Lisa Warrington, NZ Books, October 2003
  27. ^ John Farnsworth, Christchurch Press, 16 November 1984
  28. ^ Lisa Warrington, NZ Books, October 2003
  29. ^ Jane Bowron, Dominion, June 1989
  30. ^ Laurie Atkinson, Evening Post, June 1989
  31. ^ Neil Hickman, Music New Zealand, 1991
  32. ^ Mark Gobbi, March 1991, City Voice
  33. ^ Direen turns stage-show into mini rock-opera, Evening Post, Wednesday 10 March 1993
  34. ^ Bernadette Rae, NZ Herald, 25 July 1992
  35. ^ Virginia Were, NZ Listener, 23 June 1997
  36. ^ Anna Chinn, NZ Listener, December 2002
  37. ^ Kate Belgrave, Listener, 25 May 2002.
  38. ^ Christopher Moore, The Press, Christchurch, 27 March 2004
  39. ^ David Hill reviewing Jules on 10 December 2004. Radio New Zealand, National Programme.
  40. ^ Norman Bilbrough, Listener, May 2004.
  41. ^ Kapka Kassabova, Listener 16 January 1999.
  42. ^ Jen Crawford, Landfall 214, November 2007.
  43. ^ mins, Campbell Walker Read Time: 45. "If You Stand By This Tree Long Enough, They'll Make You The Fucking Queen: Bill Direen and A Memory of Others". Pantograph Punch.

External links[edit]