Hawken, Dinah

Hawken, Dinah


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Te Herenga Waka Press
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In Brief

Dinah Hawken is a poet whose first collection was published in 1987, and like much of her poetry it is characterised by inner reflection paired with international scope and awareness. A number of her publications feature prose and letters in addition to poetry. Her collections are innovative, and touch on key areas of interest, including nature, women’s experience, and spirituality. She has won awards and residencies, and continues to play a significant role in developments in New Zealand poetry.


Hawken, Dinah (1943 - ), is a poet who combines powerful inwardness with international awareness. She was born in Hawera, trained as a physiotherapist, psychotherapist and social worker in New Zealand and the United States and worked for 20 years as a student counsellor at Victoria University.

Most of the poems in her first collection, It Has No Sound and Is Blue (1987), were written during a three-year period in New York in the mid-1980s while she was studying for a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Brooklyn College and working with the homeless and mentally ill. The volume's centrepiece, 'Writing Home', is a sequence of sixteen unrhymed sonnets, formally modelled on James K. Baxter's Jerusalem Sonnets, but focusing on women's issues, specifically the need to achieve a state of inner balance in a world under threat.

Other notable literary influences include Wallace Stevens, John Ashbery and Adrienne Rich. The collection won the Best First Time Published Poet section of the Commonwealth Poetry Prize for 1987 and at once established Hawken locally as one of the most distinctive new voices of her generation. Small Stories of Devotion (1991, UK edn 1995), described by Hawken as 'the diary of a woman it takes time to come to love', was equally well received.

Closer to prose poetry, this second collection fuses dream, myth and the everyday into a series of meditations about female spirituality. Water, Leaves, Stones (1995), with its wary celebration of the natural world, further develops Hawken's central concerns.


Dinah Hawken published a small collection of poetry, The Little Book of Bitching, which appeared with issue 21 of the literary magazine Sport in 1998. Where We Say We Are (2000) is a collection of poetry, prose and letters from friends that centre on the Pacific Ocean and lives lived in and around it. Hawken's volume of selected and new poems, Oh There You Are Tui!, was published in 2001.

Hawken had a poem included in Shards of Silver (Steele Roberts, 2006), a book investigating the interplay between photography and poetry.

One Shapely Thing (2006), is a collection of new poems and two prose journals. The result is to demonstrate much more clearly how her poetry is drawn from her life in both a public and global sense, and to draw together in fascinating new ways her characteristic themes of personal responsibility and social justice, and of living in and with Nature (from publisher's press release). One Shapely Thing has been shortlisted in the poetry section of the Montana New Zealand Book Awards 2007.

Also in 2007, Hawken was awarded the Lauris Edmond Award for Distinguished Contribution to Poetry.

In 2008 she was commissioned by Chamber Music NZ to write seven poems for a New Zealand performance of Haydn's 'Seven last words from the cross,' to be toured by the New Zealand String Quartet in 2009. She currently convenes a creative writing course at the International Institute of Modern Letters called 'Writing the landscape.'

Hawken's collection Sea-light (Te Herenga Waka University Press) is her ninth collection of poems. These works 'illuminate the forces – personal, ecological and political – that are re-forming our lives.' Sea-light was longlisted for the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry at the 2022 Ockham Book Awards.

Dinah lives in Paekakariki on the Kapiti Coast.


Updated November 2022.