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Elizabeth Smither

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Title: Elizabeth Smither  
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Subject: Poet laureate, Hone Tuwhare, Brian Turner (New Zealand poet), 2005 in poetry, 2004 in poetry, 2003 in poetry, 2002 in poetry, 2006 in poetry, Michael Smither, Smither
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Elizabeth Smither

Elizabeth Edwina Smither MNZM (born 15 September 1941 in New Plymouth) is a New Zealand poet and writer.

She worked as a librarian.[1]




  • You’re Very Seductive William Carlos Williams (1978)
  • The Sarah Train (1980)
  • The Legend of Marcello Mastroianni’s wife (1981)
  • Casanova’s Ankle (1981)
  • Shakespeare Virgins (1983)
  • Professor Musgrove’s Canary (1986)
  • Gorilla/ Guerilla (1986)
  • Animaux (1988)
  • A Pattern of Marching (1989)
  • A Cortège of Daughters (1993)
  • The Tudor Style: Poems New and Selected (1993)
  • Horse Playing the Accordion (Ahadada Books, Tokyo & Toronto, 2009)
  • The Love of One Orange


  • First Blood (1983)
  • Brother-love Sister-love (1986)
  • The Sea Between Us (2003) 2004 Finalist for the Montana New Zealand Book Awards

Short Stories

  • Nights at the Embassy (1990)
  • Mr Fish (1994)



Elizabeth Bishop knew that her type of poem was hard to do well, and she published sparingly. Elizabeth Smither, by comparison, publishes prolifically. In each book there are some very good poems, the kind that you rediscover later with delight. But many of the poems in The Lark Quartet, as much as we can see where they want to go, don’t quite make it. I wished they had been left longer and worked harder so that their quickness and lightness at the level of ideas could ripen into something more lasting in language.[3]
Smither writes concise, intelligent poems that sometimes exhort, sometimes muse, sometimes simply watch. Smither generally does not rhyme, though ‘Rhyme, Unrhyme’ playfully comments on this by rhyming in stilted couplets and ending by saying, of a causal conversation among working-class New Zealanders on a train, ‘if it rhymes it takes away all their hopes’.[4]
Elizabeth Smither’s poetry book Horse Playing the Accordion is a lively exploration into the ordinary instances of life. Smither alternates between revealing life’s most sublime and solemn (in the case of her funeral poems) instances. We can only marvel as Smither gathers an array of moments, placing them before us to feast on.[5]
Oblique, amused, always probingly intelligent, Smither’s muse is too wry, too self-aware, to demand disciples or to found a “school”. Reading her poetry leaves us the opposite of spellbound.[6]


External links

Cultural offices
Preceded by
Hone Tuwhare
New Zealand Poet Laureate
Succeeded by
Brian Turner

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