Author of ‘Lost Items’

I was born in 1966. I liked reading, and adapted the adventures filling my head to my life in Palmerston North – with surprising success.

In Year 7, I got the only award I’d ever get at school: a certificate for ‘Effort and Originality in Reading and Language’.

High school was a big, single-sex boys’ school that I obeyed in Years 9 and 10, but loathed in Years 11 and 12.   

I got a clerical job, saved money, then travelled overseas. I was 18 and didn’t know what I wanted to do. I returned, and enrolled at university. At first I avoided English, thinking I’d have to read Shakespeare, but I took a paper called Writing that had a creative writing element. The next year I switched to English, and eventually discovered contemporary poetry.

After university, I got a job as a studio operator with Radio New Zealand. Non-commercial radio was my other big love. But after a year I returned to university to keep my brain alive. I did Bill Manhire’s Creative Writing course, and began to learn to write.

I worked in a bookshop. I wrote. I lived in France for a year. My partner and I had children. I got some writing fellowships. I got old. Now I’m working on my sixth collection of poetry. 

Books I loved aged between 8 and 12: The Famous Five, The Secret Island, Biggles, Dr Who. I wanted adventure. I remember reading The Day of the Triffids in Year 5 or 6, and the teacher asking me if I understood it. Watership Down. The Hobbit. Mrs Frisbie and the Rats of NIMH. Catweazel. The Mouse and the Motorcycle. The S E Hinton books, which I found disturbing. I still love Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner. I learnt a lot about good writing from them.

I loved pop music, and absorbed or rejected whatever the late 70s inflicted on me, and what my parents liked: Abba, Lonnie Donegan, The Irish Rovers, Kris Kristofferson, The Beatles, 50s and 60s rock and roll. I read The Beano, Asterix, and 2000 AD. I was never really into comics, but a group of us spent a lot of Year 8 drawing intricate comic-style battle scenes.

Books my girls enjoyed having read to them: Holes, Watership Down, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Huckleberry Finn. Their favs: Because of Winn Dixie, When You Reach Me, The Silver Crown, The Little White Horse, Molly Moon. The Graveyard Book, The Fontania series, Roald Dahl books.

More about James

Ashleigh Young & James Brown go on a bike ride

'Loneliness' Best NZ Poems 2001

'The Wicked' Best NZ Poems 2004

'No Rest' Best NZ Poems 2005

'University Open Day' Best NZ Poems 2006

The Green Plastic Toy' Best NZ Poems 2010

'Stan and the Cellphone' Best NZ Poems 2012

'Te Papa Bike Makeover' YouTube reading

Poems that appeared in Sport magazine 1992-2015

'Why We Do What We Do' Tuesday Poem

'Demarcations' Griffith Review 43

'Green Light' Griffith Review 43

James rides Siberia Gully, Rimutaka Incline