O'Rourke, Maris

O'Rourke, Maris


Primary publisher
David Ling Publishing. Duck Creek Press.

In Brief

After a long career in education, Maris O'Rourke started publishing her work in 2008, winning the Kathleen Grattan Prize for a Sequence of Poems with Motherings, as well as receiving a number of highly commended titles in other national and international awards. O’Rourke has also published six children's books and a memoir, a family history Through My Eyes, two poetry collections Singing With Both Throats and Paradox, and had her work included in numerous journals and anthologies.


Maris O’Rourke has been an author, literary performer, examiner and judge since 2008 when she decided to reinvent herself and become a writer, Previously O’Rourke had a long career in education and was the first Secretary for Education in New Zealand as well as the first Director of Education for the World Bank in Washington DC. After deciding to enter the writing field, O’Rourke had immediate success in numerous adult poetry competitions, anthologies and international literary magazines, such as 150 Essential NZ Poems: Facing the Empty Page (Random House, 2014) the International Literary Quarterly (UK) #16 (2011) and Ngā Kupu Waikato (2019).

O’Rourke’s first children’s book was Lillibutt’s Big Adventure (Duck Creek Press, 2012), followed by Lillibutt’s Te Araroa Adventure (Duck Creek Press, 2014) and Lillibutt’s Australian Adventure (Duck Creek Press, 2015). Each book in the series was illustrated by Claudia Pond Eyley. Lillibutt’s Te Araroa Adventure was translated into te reo Māori by Ani Wainui as Te Haerenga Māia Riripata i Te Araroa (Duck Creek Press, 2016), and distributed to every Te Kōhanga Reo and Kura Kaupapa Māori in New Zealand. In 2017 it was a finalist for the prestigious Te Pounanu award in the New Zealand Children's Book Awards for a book entirely in Māori.

Her first poetry collection Singing With Both Throats was published by David Ling in 2013 to good reviews. Seen as an analogy for how O’Rourke herself sees her life the collection is divided into three sections: Passages, Parallels and Pathfinder, and compiles a range of traditional and modern poetry form.

In 2018, O’Rourke published Our Superbaby! (GTMpress) beautifully illustrated by collage artist Helen Bell. In 2020 she collaborated with Claudia Pond Eyley (illustrations) and Stephanie Huriana Fong (whakamāori) to produce a bilingual children’s counting book Birdsong/ He Korihi (Duck Creek Press, 2020).

O’Rourke’s memoir Zigzags and Leapfrogs (David Ling) was launched at the Auckland Writers Festival in 2019. Begun as part of her thesis for AUT's Master of Creative Writing, for which she received first class honours, it's a memoir of an unlikely life that embraces themes of persistence, luck, bravery, ambition, roaming, joy, disappointment and success.

O’Rourke’s second poetry collection Paradox (The Pear Tree Press, 2021) is a unique artefact of 10 poems, hand-printed by outstanding letter-press artist Tara McLeod in 50 limited edition copies. Each poem is accompanied by artist Paddy O’Rourke’s personal response of an original artwork – a photogram, cyanotype, linocut or woodcut.

O’Rourke is a passionate performer, using her children’s books and poetry to run sessions in schools and regularly performs her work at poetry readings, conferences and festivals - ranging from The NZ Writers and Readers Festival in 2013 to the AUT Masters Readings in 2019.

She lives and works in Auckland with her whānau and is currently working on her third poetry collection.


Maris O'Rourke's LinkedIn profile

Maris O’Rourke on Voices: commonwealth women and education

Interview for Gardens Mag by David Williams

Maris O’Rourke on Radio New Zealand ‘Nine to Noon’

Maris O’Rourke on Radio New Zealand ‘Arts on Sunday’

The New Zealand Society of Authors profile

Bookmarks interview on RNZ with Jesse Mulligan

Updated April 2022.