Writer in Residence

Each year the University of Waikato invites applications for the position of Writer in Residence, tenable for twelve months normally from February. The emolument is jointly funded by the University of Waikato and Creative New Zealand, the Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa. The position is open to poets, novelists, short story writers, dramatists, and writers of serious non-fiction. The appointment will be made on the basis of a record of publications of high quality.

The Writer is required to live in Hamilton during the tenure of the award. There are no teaching or lecturing duties attached to the award, the sole purpose of which is to give the Writer the freedom to write. It is expected the Writer will participate in the cultural life of the University. On occasion the writer will be able to take up residence in and make use of the Michael King Writers Retreat in Opoutere.

Applications for the 2018 Writer in Residence position close on Friday 29 September 2017, and are to be made on the University of Waikato application form available from our website Vacancy Number: 370298

2017 Writer in Residence

Bob Orr

For the last 35-plus years poet Bob Orr has worked full time on the water, most recently driving the pilot boat for Ports of Auckland. This year, for the first time, he’s able to write full time.

Bob is the 2017 University of Waikato writer in residence. He arrived last week and says he feels like he’s in some kind of parallel universe. “I was unaware of the campus, the lakes, the gardens, the mature trees – and that’s just the walk from the carpark. I can look out my office window and see the windmills at Te Pahu.”

He may have been unfamiliar with the campus, but he knows the Waikato well. It’s where he grew up, on a farm at Hoe-o-Tainui about 20km north of Morrinsville, and he completed his secondary schooling at St Paul’s Collegiate in Hamilton.

He’s always enjoyed poetry, even at school, and has been writing since then. He gave university a go, “but spent most of my time protesting with the likes of Tim Shadbolt”, and after travel and odd jobs the Hauraki Gulf became his “office”.

“The good thing about piloting boats is that you get down-time, and I’d often jot down ideas for poems, odd little phrases that I could make into something on my days off.”

Bob’s first book-length collection of poems was published in 1971, and he’s published eight in total. Last year he won the Lauris Edmond Memorial Award for Poetry, a prize given biennially in recognition of a distinguished contribution to New Zealand poetry.

As one critic said, Bob has a knack for “distilling beauty from urban or industrial scenes”. But he says his inspiration comes from everywhere. It’s about being receptive when it arrives.

He’s taken a room upstairs at the Taupiri Tavern while waiting for accommodation closer to the University to become available. “The pub’s a grand old building, native timbers, high stud, but I’m not getting a lot of sleep. I thought trains were moribund in this country, but every night there must be at least six freight trains passing through and shaking the ground beneath me.”

But Bob is fond of Taupiri, its history and the mountain, and it’s the Waikato region that attracted him to the University’s writer in residence position. “I wouldn’t have applied for any other, because I want to re-immerse myself in the Waikato landscape and write about that.”

He doesn’t use a computer. He writes straight onto a portable Brother typewriter “which you can still buy ribbons for”, and sometimes he’ll rewrite a poem up to 40 times before he deems it complete.

Previous Writers in Residence

2016 Steven Toussaint
2015 Mandy Hager
2014 Dr John Newton
2013 Professor Andrew Sharp
2012 Michael Morrissey
2011 Jeffrey Holman
2010 Albert Belz
2009 Catherine Chidgey
2008 Christopher Bourke
2007 Ken Catran
2006 Peter Wells
2005 Tina Shaw
2004 No appointment
2003 Mitch Thomas
2002 Kate Camp
2001 Anna Jackson
2000 John Dickson
1999 Beryl Fletcher
1998 Elspeth Sandys
1997 John Cranna
1996 John Pule
1995 Renee
1994 Michael King
1993 Mona Williams
1992 Maurice Shadbolt
1991 Tessa Duder