Alistair Paterson


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I see myself simply as a journeyman, someone who practices his trade and keeps on practicing his trade.

Alistair Paterson is a poet, editor, anthologist, fiction writer and critic, associated with the rise in awareness in this country of American poetics, including aspects of postmodernism and the concept of the ‘open form’. In the 1970s he initiated and organised the tours of poets such as Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan and Galway Kinnell. In later years he has focused more on fiction, and in 1993 he won the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Short Story Award. He has been an editor of Poetry New Zealand, and in 2007 he was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature. (

Here Alistair talks with fellow poet Riemke Ensing about his life writing, supporting, publishing and editing poetry. They also discuss his ‘disorderly’ family and the childhood illnesses which put him in hospital for two years and led him to seek comfort in books; his experiences serving in the Navy, returning to New Zealand at the time of the Vietnam War and being seen by contemporaries as a “sword waving maniac” (although the Navy was not involved in this war); his love of violin, and much more.

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