Karlo Mila

ANZL Member

Karlo Mila is an award-winning New Zealand poet, Fulbright Scholar, researcher, academic and author of Tongan, Samoan and European descent.  In 2016 she was awarded the Contemporary Pacific Art Award at the Creative New Zealand Arts Pasifika Awards and in 2017 received the New Zealand Order of Merit both for services to the Pacific community and as a poet. Both personal and political, urban and island, Karlo’s poetry is rooted in concerns of identity, voice, migration and family. Of the challenges Pacific writers face, Karlo says: ‘We are barely in print…We are constantly fed a diet of other peoples’ stories and experiences…We must be the protagonists wrought by our own pens, not shadows in other people’s stories.’

Karlo’s first book of poetry, Dream Fish Floating (Huia, 2005), won the NZSA Jessie Mackay Best First Book Award for Poetry at the Montana New Zealand Book Awards (2006). Her second work  A Well Written Body (Huia, 2008) was published in collaboration with German-born artist Delicia Sampero and is a combination of text and image. Goddess Muscle (Huia, 2020) her most recent collection, spans work written over a decade. The poems are both personal and political, defining issues such as racism, poverty, violence, climate change and power on Pasifika peoples, Aotearoa and beyond, but also love, identity, culture, and community. Goddess Muscle was longlisted for the 2021 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

Karlo represented Tonga at the 2012 Cultural Olympiad Poetry event Parnassus Festival in London, and was recipient of the Fulbright-Creative New Zealand Pacific Writer’s Residency (2015). Her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including including Whetu Moana: Contemporary Polynesian Poems in English and Best New Zealand Poems 2003, 2005 ,2006 and 2017.

Born in 1974 in Rotorua, Karlo was raised in Palmerston North where she completed her undergraduate degree before working in Auckland in medical research. After ten years, she returned to Massey University where she completed her PhD in Sociology researching the identity and wellbeing of the New Zealand- born Pacific population. She currently lives in Palmerston North.




Read NZ Te Pou Muramura writer page

NZ Electronic Poetry Centre poet page


Huia Press author page

Radio New Zealand interview on the rise of Pacifica poetry (Nov, 2016)

New releases by Karlo Mila

The Goddess Muscle (poetry)

Published by Huia Publishers on October 23, 2020

Bibliography: Karlo Mila



Goddess Muscle (Huia, 2020)

A Well Written Body (Image text, with German-born artist Delicia Sampero: Huia, 2008)

Dream Fish Floating (Huia, 2005)



Niu Voices (Huia, 2006)

Best New Zealand Poems (Victoria UP, 2003, 2005 & 2006)

Whetu Moana: Contemporary Polynesian Poems in English (Auckland UP, 2003)

Short Fuse: The Global Anthology of New Fusion Poetry (Rattapallax Press, 2002)


'One of writing’s greatest magics is to allow us – to use Kiri Piahana-Wong’s phrase – to slide outside the trap of time.' - David Taylor

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