Robert Sullivan

ANZL Member

Robert with his poetry installation 'Kawe Reo / Voices Carry', outside Auckland City Library. Photo credit: Courtney Sina Meredith.

Robert Sullivan is a poet, academic and editor whose many books include the bestselling poetry collection Star Waka (Auckland UP, 1999). He belongs to the Māori tribes Ngāpuhi and Kai Tahu, and is also of Irish descent, but describes himself as multicultural. Although each of his books are very different they are all post modern, urban and explore social and racial subjects, and aspects of Maori tradition and history. Robert has an Auckland University MA and he was awarded the 1998 Auckland University Literary Fellowship (1998).

Robert’s poetry appears in numerous major magazines and journals in New Zealand, the UK, Australia and America. His first collection, Jazz Waiata, won the PEN (NZ) Best First Book Award in 1991. His acclaimed Star Waka has been reprinted five times, translated into German (Mana Verlag), and was shortlisted for the Montana New Zealand Book Awards (2000). His graphic novel Maui: Legends of the Outcast, illustrated by Chris Slane, was shortlisted for the LIANZA Russell Clark Medal. Weaving Earth and Sky, illustrated by Gavin Bishop, and listed as a Storylines Notable Non-Fiction Book (2003), won the Non-Fiction category and the New Zealand Post Children’s Book of the Year (2003). Captain Cook in the Underworld was longlisted in the Poetry Category for the Montana New Zealand Book Awards (2003). It is also an oratorio for the composition by John Psathas, Orpheus in Rarohenga, performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and the Orpheus Choir of Wellington. Robert’s poem ‘Kawe Reo / Voices Carry’ is installed in bronze in front of the Auckland City Library.

With Albert Wendt and Reina Whaitiri, Robert edited two anthologies of Polynesian poetry in English, the Montana New Zealand Book Award winning Whetu Moana, and Mauri Ola. The latest anthology he has co-edited (with Reina Whaitiri) is Puna Wai Kōrero: An Anthology of Māori Poetry in English, the first anthology of its kind. This won the Ngā Kupu Ora Aotearoa Māori Book Award for Creative Writing in 2015.

Robert is a seasoned participant in both national and international festivals and universities in Germany, Spain, India, England, United States, Turkey, Hong Kong, and Canada, including the Frankfurt Book Fair, and Taipei International Book Exhibition. He has also travelled to Oxford University for a symposium where he discussed poetry with some of the world’s top academics. Robert is a qualified librarian and worked at Auckland University Library. He is one of the editors of the online journal trout since its foundation in 1997 and founder of the new MIT student writing showcase Journal Ika. He was a founder of the creative writing programme at MIT in 2010 with Witi Ihimaera, Albert Wendt and Eleanor Catton, among others. He has worked as Assistant Professor teaching Creative Writing at the University of Hawai’i where he specialised in indigenous Pacific literature, and was later head of the Creative Writing School at Manukau Institute of Technology.

Tūnui | Comet is Robert’s first collection in more than a decade. Rolling easily between kōrero Māori and the canonical traditions of English-language poetry, through karakia and pōwhiri, treaty training and decolonisation wiki entries, Robert takes readers on a marvellous poetic hīkoi.



Auckland University Press author page

Huia Publisher writer page

NZEPC profile page

ANZL review of Tūnui | Comet (April, 2022)

Maori News interview discussing Tūnui | Comet (April, 2022)

Stuff article: Robert’s Star Waka sells out at Frankfurt Book Fair (Nov, 2012)

Stuff article on Robert’s poem ‘Kawe Reo / Voices Carry’ etched outside Auckland Library (July, 2011)

New releases by Robert Sullivan

Tūnui | Comet (poetry)

Published by Auckland University Press on April 7, 2022

Bibliography: Robert Sullivan



Tūnui | Comet (Auckland UP, 2022)

Star Waka (Auckland UP, 1999; German translation: Sternen-Waka, 2012)

Shout Ha! to the Sky (Salt Publishing, 2010)

Cassino: City of Martyrs (Huia, 2010)

Voice Carried My Family (Auckland UP, 2005)

Weaving Earth and Sky : Myths & Legends of Aotearoa (Random House, 2002)

Captain Cook in the Underworld (Auckland UP, 2002)

Maui – Legends of the Outcast (Godwit, 1996)

Piki Ake!: Poems 1990-92 (Auckland UP, 1993)

Jazz Waiata (Oxford UP, 1990)



Puna Wai Kōrero: An Anthology of Māori Poetry in English ([coedited with Reina Whaitiri] Auckland University Press, 2014)

Whetu Moana: Contemporary Polynesian Poems in English ([coedited with Albert Wendt and Reina Whaitiri] Auckland University Press, 2003)





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