Murray Edmond is known variously for his work as a poet, playwright, and as an editor and critic. His first collection of poems, Entering the Eye, was published in 1973, and several other collections have followed. Many of his poems have been featured in journals and in anthologies. His extensive theatre work has led to a distinguished career writing for the stage, and Edmond is known for his involvement with local theatre, contributing as a writer, performer and producer.
FROM THE OXFORD COMPANION TO NEW ZEALAND LITERATURE
Edmond, Murray (1949– ), poet, playwright, editor and critic, was born in Hamilton and attended Hamilton BHS and the University of Auckland, where he completed his MA and PhD in English.
He also edited the third and fourth issues of Freed 1970–71 and participated in alternative theatre groups, including Living Theatre and Beggars Bag Theatre.
His first collection of poems, Entering the Eye (1973), incorporated ‘The Grafton Notebook’, a self-contained sequence which included his most anthologised poem, ‘Von Tempsky’s Dance’.
In 1974–76 he was in Europe, mostly in London, where he worked in theatre. Back in New Zealand he resumed involvement with alternative theatre in Wellington as writer, performer and producer for groups such as Theatre Action and the Town and Country Players.
Patchwork: Poems (1978) was a sequence focusing on domestic milestones, including the birth of his first child.
End Wall: Poems (1983) collected poems written from 1973–81, and encompassed the period abroad. Edmond wrote: ‘I have aimed for a tight coherent grouping where dominant concerns are clear’; among these concerns are history, locality, language and the dynamics of personal and family relationships.
In 1983 he was writer-in-residence at the University of Canterbury, where he wrote many of the poems in Letters and Paragraphs (1987), several of which took the form of verse letters or poems addressed to specific persons; an increasing self-referentiality and consciousness of language as the medium for poetry are also evident.
After moving to Auckland in 1984, Edmond worked for Mercury Theatre and then from 1985, began teaching the University’s postgraduate diploma in drama. He was also active as a director and dramaturg at several theatre workshops.
His full-length musical ‘A New South Pacific’ was performed in 1987. From the Word Go (1992) showed an increasing focus on linguistic procedures and dramatic manipulation of voice and persona, as in the sequence ‘The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations’, while The Switch (1994), a sequence of forty-nine short poems, was described as ‘a game, a show, an entertainment, a meditation about love and the passage of time’.
Names Manes (1996), subtitled ‘twenty one stories’, is a collection of brief gnomic poems involving much sophisticated wordplay. Edmond edited (with Mary Paul) The New Poets: Initiatives in New Zealand Poetry (1987), an anthology of poets who began publishing in the 1980s. In 1996 he completed his doctoral thesis on the history of alternative theatre in New Zealand between the 1960s and 1980s, entitled ‘Old Comrades of the Future’.
Edmond's poetry collection Fool Moon (Auckland University Press, 2004) was a finalist in the poetry category of the Montana New Zealand Book Awards 2005.
His poetry collection Shaggy Magpie Songs was longlisted for the poetry section of the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.
Edmond is the editor of Ka mate ka ora: a New Zealand journal of poetry and poetics.
In 2021, he released a cultural history of Auckland as the city was reinventing itself called Time to Make a Song and Dance: Cultural Revolt in Auckland in the 1960s (Atuanui Press).
MEDIA LINKS AND CLIPS
- Murray Edmond on the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre site
- Murray Edmond on the Electronic Text Centre site
- About 'ka mate ka ora' journal
- 2021 poetry workshop at Piha with Going West Festival, Literal/Littoral
- 2021 University of Auckland interview
Updated July 2022.