Holman, Jeffrey

Holman, Jeffrey


Primary publisher
Penguin Random House NZ; Canterbury University Press
Rights enquiries
publishing@penguinrandomhouse.co.nz; universitypress@canterbury.ac.nz
Publicity enquiries
publicity@penguinrandomhouse.co.nz; universitypress@canterbury.ac.nz

In Brief

Jeffrey Paparoa Holman is a poet and a writer of fiction and non-fiction. He is a senior adjunct fellow in the School of Humanities at the University of Canterbury. In the past Holman worked as a sheep-shearer, postman, and psychiatric social worker. He has written several collections of poetry and As Big as a Father (2002), was long-listed for the Poetry Category of the Montana New Zealand Book Awards 2003. The title poem 'As Big as a Father' also won the 1997 Whitirea Prize.

Author Photo credit: DSB@UC

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Holman, Jeffrey Paparoa (1947 - ) is a poet and a writer of fiction and non-fiction. He lives in Christchurch and is a senior adjunct fellow in the School of Humanities at the University of Canterbury.

Holman was born in London and emmigrated to New Zealand in 1950. He grew up on naval bases in Auckland and Christchurch, and then later in mining towns on the West Coast of the South Island.

Professionally, Holman has worked as a sheep-shearer, postman, psychiatric social worker and bookseller. He completed his PhD on the writings of the 19th century ethnographer Elsdon Best in 2007 and is now a part-time lecturer in the English programme at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch. He also tutors at the Hagley Community College’s Writers’ Institute.

Holman’s poetry collections include Two Poets (1974) with David Walker which included his first collection: Strange Children; Flood Damage (1998), and As Big as a Father (2002). The title poem 'As big as a father' won the 1997 Whitirea Prize and is included in Essential New Zealand Poems (2001). His poems and short stories have also appeared in the NZ Listener and Landfall. His poetry has appeared in a number of anthologies including Big Sky (2002), and most recently, Land Very Fertile (2008).

Writing about As Big as a Father in the Christchurch Press, Mark Murphy notes that in the collection ‘the poetic “me” is one of contrasts. From hard, wounded men … to a softened, bicultural masculinity… [in this] Holman bends the New Zealand tradition in new and interesting ways.’ Writing in the Listener Peter Bland notes that in the collection ‘there is a touch of the Steinbecks (anger, loss, moral outrage) drifting through the beerhalls and paddocks', and at the same time the collection manages a ‘nice balancing of humour and serious language games.'

As Big as a Father (2002) was longlisted for the Poetry Category of the 2003 Montana New Zealand Book Awards.

The Late Great Blackball Bridge Sonnets, was published in 2004 by Steele Roberts. Writing in The Listener in February 2005, David Eggleton comments: 'Holman affirms the working-class spirit ... his poems are vivid with imagery. This is poetry as local history and vice-versa: "In the house of my body (he writes), I carry that river."'

In 2007, Holman and Martin Edmond won the Copyright Licensing Limited Award giving them $35,000 each towards a non-fiction project. Holman is using his to write a new history of the relationship between the ethnographer Elsdon Best and his principal Tuhoe informant, Tutakangahau of Maungapohatu.

Best of Both Worlds: The Story of Elsdon Best and Tutakangahau, published by Penguin in 2010. The non-fiction work delves into the 1895 meeting in the rugged Urewera ranges between Best, a self-taught anthropologist and quartermaster, and Tuhoe chief Tutakangahau, which would have lasting effects on our views of traditional Māori society. Holman poses questions about the meeting and Best’s subsequent writings, which are still pervasive today in our understanding of Māori culture.

Holman was the 2011 Waikato University Writer-in-Residence. In 2012 he was awarded the Creative New Zealand University of Iowa Residency.

Holman's collection of poetry, Shaken Down 6.3, was published by Canterbury University Press in 2012. Hamesh Wyatt reviewed the book for the Otago Daily Times: 'Holman speaks the truth with a raw, sometimes harrowing clarity.'

The Lost Pilot: a memoir was published by Penguin NZ in 2013. Helen Watson White reviewed the book for Landfall Review Online, writing, 'This is the book of a poet and scholar who adds spiritual illumination to a largely hidden subject; who, in attempting to cross the many barriers between our two cultures, admits humbly to his inadequacy as an intermediary. Best of all, he asks questions, and expects us to continue the conversation into the next generation.'

In late 2014 Holman traveled to Berlin on a Goethe-Institute scholarship. He studied the German language as well as German culture, and pursued research for a project - a family history based on links with his German relations and the global rubber trade.

In 2017, Holman published two new poetry collections. Blood Ties: New and Selected Poems (Canterbury University Press), and Dylan Junkie (Mākaro Press) - described as “Holman’s response to fifty-plus years of Dylan fandom”.


Updated January 2017.