While the distinction of being New Zealand’s best known living poet may go to Sam Hunt, Glenn Colquhoun is certainly the country’s most successful .
Born in Papakura in 1964, Colquhon qualified as a doctor and practiced in Northland for some years. Published in 1999, his first collection of poetry, The Art of Walking Upright tells stories from and about the Bay of Islands community of Te Tii where he practiced originally. The collection won the Jessie Mackay NZSA Best First Book of Poetry Award at the 2000 Montana New Zealand Book Awards.
His second collection, An Explanation of Poetry to My Father published the following year looked at family relationships, and Playing God, published in 2003 looked at what it is to be a doctor – among other things. This collection won the Montana Award for Poetry in 2003, and also made him the first poet ever to be awarded the Montana Readers’ Choice Award. It’s also the only collection of poetry in New Zeland to have sold more than 5,000 copies. This may not seem like many to you lot out there in internet land, but in a country of less than 5 million people, trust me it’s huge!
How we fell: A Love Story describes, in affectionate terms, Colquhoun's 10-year relationship with his ex wife.
In 2004, Colquhoun was awarded the Prize in Modern Letters, worth $60,000, New Zealand’s largest literary award, and he has been an artist in residence in a number of places, including Massey University.
In addition to poetry, Glenn Colquhoun writes essays, and children’s books.
Jumping Ship , published in 2004, is an essay describing Colqhoun’s life in Te Tii and is published by Four Winds Press, a publisher set up by novelist Lloyd Jones to preserve the essay genre in New Zealand.
He has published three picture books: Uncle Glenn and Me and Uncle Glenn & Me Too, both illustrated by Kevin Wildman. The first tells the story of a boy and his uncle, a much-admired role model who ‘talks with his mouth full, prays for lollies (candy) and burps after drinking coke.’ in the second it’s a niece who goes with Uncle Glenn into worlds of make-believe and reality, where they have as many misadventures as adventures. A children’s verse book, Mr Short, Mr Thin, Mr Bald and Mr Dog, was illustrated by Nikki Slade Robinson.
Colqhouon has mixed Irish and Maori ancestry, which he explores in depth in his poetry, and also in children’s work. Amazing tales of Aotearoa retells several Maori myths and is illustrated by Ali Teo, and in North South he imagines a mythology where the Celtic Gods of his Irish ancestry (North) interact engaging with the atua Maori (South). This book, illustrated by Nigel Brown, is handwritten.
Colquhoun remains a working GP in Kapiti, where he lives with his daughter, Olive.