Edmond, Martin

Edmond, Martin



In Brief

Martin Edmond is a writer of non-fiction, biography, poetry and screenplays. He has published book-length collections of poetry, and several non-fiction titles with a recent historical or biographical focus. He has been involved in theatre, and his career as a scriptwriter includes the screenplays for several award-winning feature films. He has been the recipient of significant awards and fellowships, and in 2006 Edmond published the travel memoir, Luca Antara: Passages in search of Australia, followed by a new collection of essays in 2007.


Edmond, Martin (1952- ) is a writer, screenwriter, and a poet.

Martin Edmond was born in Ohakune, one of six children and the only son of Trevor and Lauris Edmond, and grew up in small North Island towns. Edmond completed a BA in English & Anthropology at the University of Auckland, and an MA (1st Class Hons) in English Language and Literature at Victoria University of Wellington.

After briefly working as a Junior Lecturer at Victoria University, Edmond joined the avant-garde theatre group Red Mole, and in 1977 began to tour with them. These tours took him around New Zealand, to the United States, Mexico, the United Kingdom and Europe. In 1981 Edmond settled in Australia, where he still lives and works as a freelance writer.

Edmond’s first book of poems Streets of Music (1980) won the Jessie Mackay Award for Best First Book of Poetry 1980, and was followed by Houses, Days, Skies (1988). His first book of non-fiction The Autobiography of My Father (1992) won 3rd prize at the Goodman Fielder Wattie Book Awards, 1993.

The Autobiography of My Father is an unconventional account of the life of Edmond’s father, Trevor. Told through the voices of both men, the book was greeted by many critics as a response to Lauris Edmond’s three-volume biography. Praised and condemned, the book was described as both a eulogy and an elegy, or as Ross Stevens writes, ‘this book is more than a re-setting of our perspective on Trevor Edmond: it transcends the transient need for the putting right. It is an elegant elegy, a beautiful and affecting account of father by son.’

Edmond’s career as a scriptwriter includes the screenplays for the award-winning feature films: Illustrious Energy (1988); The Footstep Man (1992) and Terra Nova (1998). He also wrote the screenplays for the short films, Philosophy (1997) and Earth Angel (2002). Philosophy won Best Short Film, New Zealand Film Awards 1999. Terra Nova won best first film at the Montreal World Film Festival, 1998 and a Gold Award from the Australian Cinematographers Society in 1999. Earth Angel was awarded Best Screenplay at the Breakfast Film and Music Festival, 2003.

Edmond’s other non-fiction works including Chemical Evolution: Drugs & Art Production 1970-80 (1997), The Resurrection of Philip Clairmont (1999) and Fenua Imi: the Pacific in History & Imaginary (2002) and Chronicle of the Unsung (2004).

The Resurrection of Philip Clairmont
was a finalist at the Montana New Zealand Book Awards 2000. Part-memoir, part-documentary and part-catalogue, the book is an account of the life and work of the New Zealand artist who was Edmond’s friend. In Art New Zealand, Tim Walker writes ‘The Resurrection of Philip Clairmont significantly avoids the usual limitations of biography. Almost a decade in the making, this brave and wonderful book is a provocative and deeply moving account of Clairmont’s life, art and death.’

Chronicle of the Unsung is described as a book ‘in which [Edmond] meshes his real life and his thinking life in a fresh take on the notion of biography, a travelogue of the mind.’ Four quite separate periods or episodes in the author's life are linked by a number of themes and are often the excuse for discussions of historical figures, typically on society's margins, or reflections on the nature of art and its relation to personal life. The sections are set in Europe, Australia, Fiji and New Zealand, and one of the fascinations of the work is the skilful way in which Martin conveys the power, often sinister and disturbing, of the places in which he has lived and the impact the locations seem to have on his personal life. The book thus becomes at one level an account of Martin's own development, of his process of self-discovery, and is another variant on the theme that has always interested him, the nature of the creative personality. The last section concerns a trip to a school reunion at Ohakune and deals with Martin's relations with his well-known family and especially his mother.

Chronicle of the Unsung received the Montana Award for Biography at the 2005 Montana New Zealand Book Awards.

Martin Edmond was the 2004 Writing Fellow at the University of Auckland. Also in the same year, he was awarded the Landfall Essay Competition Prize, which he shared with Tze Ming Mok.

Ghost Who Writes (2004) is an essay on 'voices', in which Edmond turns his attention to the masks behind which writers hide. It was published by Four Winds Press as part of the Montana Estates Essay Series. Edmond wrote 'The Temple of Baal' for Myths of the 21st Century (Reed, 2006).

Luca Antara: Passages in search of Australia (Addenda, 2006) was described by Nobel prize winner J M Coetzee as 'a book lover's book, a graceful and mesmerising blend of history, autobiography, travel, and romance. It is a companion piece to Chronicle of the Unsung in which the author's mental and physical travelling extends into Europe, the Pacific and South East Asia from the time of the Portuguese empire until now. As one reviewer noted, 'all of Luca Antara's many and varied characters, both historical and contemporary, are immigrants; that is, they are all from somewhere else.' A UK edition of Luca Antara was published by Oldcastle in 2008.

Waimarino Country & other excursions (Auckland University Press, 2007) is a new collection of essays by Edmond, which have been described by the publisher as 'elegant discursions on themes of memory, words and travel.'

Also in 2007 Edmond won a Copyright Licensing Ltd Writer's Award for a project titled Zone of the Marvellous. It is a projected history of European thought about the Antipodes that attempts to make connections between the present, the future and the far past. Zone of the Marvellous was later published by Auckland University Press in 2009.

In 2008, Otoliths Press published Edmond's The Evolution of Mirrors, a collection of shorter prose pieces that is only available online through print in demand site Lulu. In the same year, Michael Steven's Soapbox Press published a sequence of poems from 1996, The Big O Revisited.

In March 2009, Edmond's The Supply Party was released, an account of the life and death of Ludwig Becker, the artist and scientist on the doomed Burke and Wills expedition across Australia.

Steal Away Boy, edited by Martin Edmond and Nigel Roberts, was published by Auckland University Press in 2010.

Dark Night: Walking With McCahon was published by Auckland University Press in 2011. Iain Sharp wrote in Metro, ‘thanks to Edmond’s acumen, humility and finely tuned sense of irony, Dark Night is one of the year’s most rewarding reads.’ Edmond's Dark Night was shortlisted for the Douglas Stewart Prize for non-fiction in the 2013 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards.

In 2013, Martin Edmond received the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement for Non-fiction.

Barefoot Years (Bridget Williams Books) was released in 2014 and is a short piece that preludes Martin Edmond’s forthcoming memoirs. It explores the compelling yet fragmentary nature of recalling and describing childhood memory.


Updated July 2022.