Rickerby, Helen

Rickerby, Helen


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Auckland University Press
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In Brief

Helen Rickerby is a writer, editor and publisher. She has had four full collections of her poetry published, most recently How to Live (Auckland University Press, 2019), and one chapbook. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Essential New Zealand Poems: Facing the Empty Page (Godwit, 2012). Rickerby was a co-founder and managing editor of literary journal JAAM, and is managing editor of Seraph Press, which has become an increasingly significant publisher of high quality New Zealand poetry. She has been involved in organising literary conferences and events, including the inaugural Ruapehu Writers Festival.


RICKERBY, Helen (1974–) was born in the Hutt Valley, and now lives in Wellington. She has a BA in English literature and art history, and a Master’s of Arts in English literature from Victoria University of Wellington. Her Master’s thesis focused on fairytale intertextuality in the fiction of Margaret Atwood. In 2000, she completed the Diploma of Publishing at Whitireia Polytechnic and has worked mainly as an editor, including seven years at Te Ara, the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

Since 1995 Rickerby’s poetry has been published in literary journals, mainly in New Zealand and Australia.

Rickerby’s first collection of poetry, Abstract Internal Furniture (HeadworX, 2001), was described as “an avant-garde, indoor garden full of strange images and intriguing ideas where things turn topsy-turvy” (Harvey McQueen, New Zealand Books). Fairy tales and feminism were common themes, and the collection included a sequence of ‘Theodora’ poems – about a persona/alter ego named Theodora.

This was followed by My Iron Spine (HeadWorX, 2008), which explored the idea that things that give strength are often the same things that cage us through autobiographical poems and biographical poems about women from history. This marked the beginning of Rickerby’s strong interest in biographical poetry.

In 2010, Kilmog Press published the hand bound chapbook, Heading North, a single long poem sequence that traces a journey, both physical and emotional, up the North Island to Cape Reinga.

Rickerby’s third full collection, Cinema, was published by Mākaro Press in 2014. It is another strongly thematic collection, with the poems being inspired by films and film-making. Poet and reviewer, Paula Green said Cinema’s “poetic effects are various, whether humorous, confessional, inventive, challenging, insightful, quirky.” Reviewer Siobhan Harvey called it “a meeting point of the cultural persuasions of our modern existences: form, exterior, paradox…” and added “all that which films are best at evoking and revivifying is found also in poetry, especially poetry as good and creative as this.”

In How to Live (Auckland University Press, 2019), Rickerby returned to her interest in exploring lives, especially the lives of women, and pushing at the boundaries of what poetry can do, and what poetry is. The collection contains 15 poems, which range from one to 26 pages, and which Lydia Wever’s describes as ‘witty and readable poems on the poetic and philosophical questions inherent in the title, especially as they relate to the lives of women writers, and it is a bold experiment in the boundaries of poetic form.’ How to Live was shortlisted for Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry at the 2020 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

Her poems have appeared in numerous anthologies, including Best New Zealand Poems 2014, selected by Vincent O’Sullivan; Essential New Zealand Poems: Facing the Empty Page, edited by Siobhan Harvey, Harry Ricketts and James Norcliffe (Godwit, 2014); and Dear Heart: 150 New Zealand Love Poems, edited by Paula Green (Godwit, 2012). Both her poetry and fiction were included in New Zealand Writing: The NeXt Wave, edited by Mark Pirie (Otago University Press, 1998). Her work is discussed and featured in Paula Green’s Wild Honey: Reading NZ Women’s Poetry (Massey University Press, 2019).

Rickerby has done many guest poetry readings, often solo, in New Zealand and overseas. Recordings of some of her early poems are in the Aotearoa New Zealand Poetry Sound Archive, housed at University of Auckland Library and the Alexander Turnbull Library.

She is also well-known as an editor and publisher. Rickerby was part of the group that founded JAAM literary magazine in 1995, and was co-managing editor with Clare Needham from 2005 to 2015.

In 2004, she founded boutique literary publishing company, Seraph Press, which has become an increasingly significant publisher of high-quality New Zealand poetry, primarily by women poets.

She has co-organised conferences and events, including Truth and Beauty: Poetry and Biography (2014), Poetry and the Essay: Form and Fragmentation (2017) and the Ruapehu Writers Festival (2016). With Anna Jackson and Angelina Sbroma, Rickerby edited Truth and Beauty: Verse Biography in New Zealand, Canada and Australia (Victoria University Press, 2016), and they are currently editing a collection of essays about poetry and the essay.


Updated March 2020.