Peter Bland

ANZL Member

Photo Credit: Jane Usher

Born in Yorkshire in 1934, poet, actor, playwright and critic, Peter Bland is known for his conversational, approachable style. ‘No New Zealand poet,’ wrote Kevin Ireland in the NZ Listener, ‘has greater graphic energy or a more creative visual sense. He writes in a carefully crafted vernacular of deceptive skill and power’. Peter has an extensive list of poetry collections, also plays, children’s books and a memoir, published in New Zealand and the UK. Amongst his accolades he has received a Cholmondeley Award, Melbourne Festival Award, the MacMillan Brown Prize for Creative Writing, and the Observer/Arvon Foundation International Poetry Prize. In 2011, Peter was awarded the New Zealand Prime Minister’s Award for services to literature.

After immigrating to New Zealand in 1954, Peter aligned himself with poets Louis Johnson, James K Baxter, Alistair Campbell and Vincent O’Sullivan. This group and their work, characterised by its reaction to repressive, nationalistic 1950s New Zealand, contributed to a new literary scene where ordinary lives were celebrated on the page. Peter also worked as a journalist, and was Head of Spoken Programmes at the old NZBC. He was co-founder and artistic director of Downstage Theatre, for which he wrote several plays. In 1985 he starred alongside Billy T James in the feature film Came a Hot Friday, for which he won a GOFTA Best Actor Award. He has written several plays for radio and the stage. With regards to his poetry Conor O’Callaghan in the Times Literary Supplement wrote: ‘His approach to the twin themes of home and exile is original and he has helped to modernize the representation of landscape within New Zealand in recent decades. This alone is no small achievement’.

Acting fuelled Peter’s poetry, and to date he now has more than 20 collections in circulation. Peter feels as if ‘the last 55 years of writing has taught me a lot about how I want to say things…there’s a great deal that still needs to be said.’

Retired from acting, Peter currently lives in Auckland. In 2016 he published a new poetry collection A Fugitive Presence through Steele Roberts.



Read NZ Te Pou Muramura writer page


NZ On Screen bio page

Steele Roberts author page

Radio New Zealand Poets and Poetry Collection

NZ Electronic Poetry Centre Best New Zealand Poems (2014)

Radio New Zealand review of Expecting Miracles (Oct, 2015)

Sunday Star Times interview and review of Collected Poems 1956-2011 (Feb, 2013)

NZ Listener interview and article (Dec, 2012)

Bibliography: Peter Bland



A Fugitive Presence (Steele Roberts, 2016)

Expecting Miracles (Steele Roberts, 2015)

Hunting Elephants (Steele Roberts, 2014)

Breath Dances (Steele Roberts, 2013)

Collected Poems: 1956–2011 (Steele Roberts, 2013)

Coming Ashore (Steele Roberts, 2011)

Starkey the Gentle Pirate (Illustrator Nikki Slade Robinson: Steele Roberts, 2010)

Loss (Steele Roberts, 2010)

Mr Maui’s Monologues (Steele Roberts, 2008)

The Night Kite: Poems for Children (Illustrator Carl Bland: Mallinson Rendel, 2004)

Let’s Meet: Poems 1985-2003 (Steele Roberts, 2003)

Ports of Call (Steele Roberts, 2003)

Selected Poems (Carcanet, 1998)

Paper Boats (McIndoe, 1991)

Selected Poems (McIndoe, 1987)

The Crusoe Factor (London Magazine Editions, 1985)

Stone Tents (London Magazine Editions, 1981)

Primitives (Wai-te-ata Press, 1979)

Mr. Maui (London Magazine Editions, 1976)

The Man With the Carpet-Bag (Caxton Press, 1972)

Domestic Interiors (Wai-te-ata Press, 1964)

My Side of the Story: Poems 1960–1964 (Mate Books, 1964)

Title 3 Poets: I. Habitual fevers, by Peter Bland. II. The watchers, by John Boyd. III. The sensual anchor, by Victor O’Leary (Capricorn Press, 1958)


Creative Nonfiction

Sorry, I’m a Stranger Here Myself (Memoir: Random House, 2004)

'...poetry makes intimate everything that it touches.' - Michael Harlow

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