Literature in the street
The Retail Quarter Project has collaborated with the Dunedin City of Literature to bring the words of preeminent Dunedin writers to George Street. In each stage of the development, selected words, quotes and excerpts of texts will be included in the streetscape, reminding visitors of the rich and varied literary history of the city.
Biographies for the chosen writers are supplied below.
For more information on Dunedin’s status as a UNESCO City of Literature, please visit: Dunedin City of Literature
Ruth Dallas (1919 – 2008), one of Aotearoa’s most distinguished and widely read poets, had a deep connection with the southern South Island. This shaped her reputation as a regional poet, but her work was also strongly influenced by Asian poetry and thought, and she was one of the few poets in Aotearoa at the time who wrote haiku. A much-loved author of stories for children, Ruth Dallas had a prolific career and published many books. She worked as editorial assistant on the literary journal Landfall with Charles Brasch, was a Robert Burns Fellow in 1968, and was the recipient of a University of Otago Honorary Doctorate of Literature in 1978.
David Eggleton exemplifies the vibrancy of contemporary poetry in Aotearoa. Described as a ‘beatnik bop poet, a freestyling surrealist and lyrical word-spinner rhyming to a rhythmic beat’, he began his career reciting his poetry at gigs in the early 1980s. Challenging contemporary popular culture, David Eggleton presents his poetry in as many contexts as possible. His works have featured in murals, on film, on T-shirts, in window displays, have been written on pavements and included in art gallery exhibitions. A Robert Burns Fellow and the recipient of multiple awards and prizes for his written works and services to the literary community, David Eggleton received the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry (2016) and was New Zealand Poet Laureate 2019 – 2022.
Janet Frame (1924 – 2004) was a celebrated New Zealand author of novels, short stories, poetry and her three-volume autobiography An Angel at My Table that was adapted for cinema by Jane Campion. Janet Frame won numerous local and international literary prizes including the Commonwealth Prize for Best Book and was rumoured to be a contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature. She was an Honorary Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and held two honorary doctorates. She was awarded a CBE in 1983 and in 1990 was made a Member of the Order of New Zealand, which is the country’s highest civil honour. Her work is in print around the world and has been translated into many languages. (Janet Frame Literary Trust)
Peter Olds (b. 1944) was a Robert Burns Fellow at the University of Otago in 1978, and in 2005 the inaugural recipient of the Janet Frame Literary Trust Award for Poetry. Since Lady Moss Revived in 1972 he has published numerous collections of poetry including his acclaimed, comprehensive 2014 selected poems You fit the description. Unpretentious and authentic, many of his poems are stories of what goes on in the streets. He has been described as ‘the laureate of the marginalised’, and ‘part of the Dunedin scenery’, and until his recent illness was a familiar sight around town, with his backpack, floppy hat, notebook and camera. (Roger Hickin, Cold Hub Press)
The Clean, formed in Ōtepoti in 1978, have been described as one of the most influential bands to come from the Flying Nun label, which was founded in 1981 by a fan of The Clean to release the band’s first single, ‘Tally Ho’. ‘In 1978, they were the seeds of New Zealand, and as such, they carved out a big sandbox for everyone to play in. Their influence resonated not only in New Zealand but around the world.’ (Merge Records, North Carolina) The Clean were inducted into the NZ Music Hall of Fame at the APRA Silver Scroll Awards at Dunedin Town Hall in 2017. ‘Voted by journalists at the NZ Listener as New Zealand’s all-time greatest band, and described by John Campbell as one of the greatest New Zealand bands of all time.’ (NZ Music Commission Te Reo Reka O Aotearoa)
Hone Tuwhare was the people’s poet. Born in 1922 in Kaikohekohe, he was loved and cherished by Kiwi from all walks of life. Touring tirelessly throughout the motu, schools, marae, factories, pubs, arts festivals and galleries, he always left an unforgettable impression. Hone Tuwhare encouraged others to be creative and write about their own feelings and thoughts. The Land March, hydro towns, relationships, love-making, Papatūānuku, Tangaroa, kai moana, mates and maunga all feature in his work. Recipient of many fellowships and awards that included recognition in Germany, South Africa and Australia, Hone Tuwhare was one of several founding members of the Māori Writers and Artists Rōpū that set up their first hui in Te Kaha in 1973. The Robert Burns Fellowship in 1969 called Hone Tuwhare to Ōtepoti. He never really left after that. Nurtured by Ōtākou folk and the taste of the sea, Hone Tuwhare settled in Kakapuaka for the last 16 years of his life. He passed away in Dunedin in January 2008 and lies at Wharepaepae Urupā close to his birthplace in Kokewai, Northland. (Rob Tuwhare, Hone Tuwhare Estate)