Sharp, Iain

Sharp, Iain



In Brief

Iain Sharp is a poet, columnist, reviewer and critic. His published works include several collections of poetry and volumes of non-fiction. Sharp is known to good-naturedly satirise the high seriousness of his own literary heritage, and many of his poems draw on the lyric tradition. Sharp is also a practiced performer of his poetry. His non-fiction titles include a history of the Spirit of Adventure Trust, a book about the rare books in the Auckland City Library collection, and a major biography of Charles Heaphy.


Sharp, Iain (1953– ), poet and critic, emigrated from Glasgow to Auckland at the age of eight and apart from two years at Victoria University of Wellington, has resided there ever since, working first as a librarian and then journalist.

While completing an Auckland University PhD on the Jacobean comedy Wit at Several Weapons, he participated in pub poetry readings in the early 1980s. One of his performances is captured on The Globe Tapes (1985).

He continues to be an effective performer, touring in 1995 with Lauris Edmond and David Eggleton. He has had three books of poetry published, Why Mammals Shiver (1981), She Is Trying to Kidnap the Blind Person and The Pierrot Variations (both 1985), which all share with the subject of his thesis an uncommon wit. The humour is usually self-directed in the manner of the Pierrot figure featured in the title of his third volume. The poems are predominantly short lyrics marked by a gentle pathos. However, just as the Pierrot character has a rich literary history, Sharp often good-naturedly satirises the high seriousness of his own literary heritage, as in the whimsical ‘Jiving with Charles Brasch’. He was, for a short time, fiction editor of Landfall and has also edited Printout.

A prolific columnist, reviewer and critic, he edits the book page of the Sunday Star-Times. His latest book, Sail the Spirit (1994), is a history of the Spirit of Adventure Trust. He also wrote the chapter on New Zealand for the Oxford Guide to Contemporary Writing (1996).



The Singing Harp is Iain Sharp's first book of poetry since 1985. Everything sings, he insists, if you listen hard enough. But this might be just a buzz in his failing ears.

In 1999, Sharp was named Reviewer of the Year at the Montana New Zealand Book Awards.

Mahones (2005) is an anthology of four poets, featuring Sharp with Bill Dacker, Michael OLeary and Mark Pirie.

Real Gold: Treasures of Auckland City Libraries (Auckland University Press, 2007) is a book about the rare books in the Auckland city collection, which was accompanied by an exhibition in 2007.

Heaphy (Auckland University Press, 2008) is a major biography of Charles Heaphy.

Listen to Iain discuss Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame on the New Zealand Book Council's Talking Books podcast: the 2015 Great Kiwi Classic

Updated January 2017.