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Smaill, Anna
Writer's File

Anna Smaill

Wellington - Te Whanganui-a-Tara
Smaill, Anna
In brief
Anna Smaill is a poet and novelist who has a background in English Literature and music performance. Her first collection, The Violinist in Spring (VUP, 2006), was listed as one of the best books in the NZ Listener. Her poems have been widely published in journals and magazines, and in Best New Zealand Poems in both 2002 and 2005. Smaill's debut novel The Chimes (Sceptre UK) was published in 2015, and subsequently won the Novel award at the World Fantasy Awards, and was longlisted for the internationally-renowned Man Booker Prize.
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Smaill, Anna (1979–) is a poet and novelist. Born in Auckland, she graduated from Auckland University with a Masters in English Literature before going on to complete a Masters in Creative Writing at Victoria University of Wellington’s International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML). She completed a PhD at University College London and lectured in Creative Writing at the University of Hertfordshire from 2009 to 2012.

Smaill’s first collection of poetry, The Violinist in Spring (VUP), was published in 2006 and was listed as one of the Best Books of 2006 by the NZ Listener. Many reviewers have commented on the ‘music’ in the poems, perhaps influenced by Smaill’s studies in music and violin performance. Writing in New Zealand Books, Paola Bilbrough comments that ‘Smaill has a flair for graceful matter-of-factness, a deceptive simplicity, which makes her work seem effortless…The Violinist is also a meditation on what it means to be alive. It is, says Smaill, ‘braving the bewilderment of a story’s merciless onward bent/without letting story desert you.’

Smaill’s poems have been widely published in Sport, Landfall and the NZ Listener. Her poems have been selected for Best New Zealand Poems in both 2002 and 2005.

In 2015, she published her debut novel The Chimes (Sceptre). It featured on the UK Independent's list of publishing highlights for 2015: 'The Chimes, by the New Zealand poet Anna Smail (Sceptre, 12 February), has already picked up praise from Eleanor Catton and Kevin Powers; its title refers to “a world where music has replaced the written word and memories are carried as physical objects”. Simon is an orphaned young man who discovers he has a gift that could change all of this forever … Will it be the novel of 2015? Watch this space.' It was also longlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize, and for the Fiction section of the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. The same year Anna Smaill was also awarded the New Zealand Arts Foundation New Generation Award.

The Chimes also received the Novel award at the World Fantasy Awards in 2016. The World Fantasy Awards take place at the World Fantasy Convention which is an anual gathering 'of professionals, collectors, and others interested in the field of light and dark fantasy art and literature.'

In 2023, Smaill published Bird Life, her third novel, with Te Herenga Waka University Press. Emily Perkins describes Bird Life as "an astonishing book about grief, beauty and survival… the writing enters your bloodstream like a strange and wonderful drug."

November 2023
November 2023