Photo by Grant Maiden

Photo by Grant Maiden

Bill manhire

“fnplfnp” Annual 2

Bill Manhire was born in Invercargill just after the Second World War and grew up in small pubs in Southland and Otago. He has been writing and publishing poetry and short stories since he was at high school. He studied English literature and the Old Norse sagas at university, but somehow or other ended up teaching creative writing at Victoria University of Wellington. Over the years, he has enjoyed collaborative work with other creative people – especially with the artist Ralph Hotere and the musician Norman Meehan.

“If I think about the books I was reading at, say, the age of ten, it would be all the obvious stuff for my generation – Enid Blyton, of course, and the Mystery stories rather than the Famous Five (perhaps people who want to be writers share something with amateur detectives?). But I’d also add Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons novels, Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book, Biggles and Tarzan, and vast quantities of comics: Superman, Batman, Mandrake the Magician, the Phantom, Plasticman, war comics.

“The obvious thing about that list is that everything on it was written somewhere overseas. I wish I’d been able, back then, to read New Zealand writers like Margaret Mahy and Joy Cowley and Jack Lasenby and Maurice Gee. Perhaps the cleverest thing I did when I was ten and we lived in Clinton was to persuade all the kids in my class to give me their books, which I then kept at the Oak Tree Inn as a sort of library that we could all borrow from. In a way, it was a sensible idea for everyone, but it was a totally good idea for me.”