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Tse, Chris
Writer's File

Chris Tse

Wellington - Te Whanganui-a-Tara
Tse, Chris
In brief
Chris Tse is a New Zealand poet. A graduate of the IIML, Tse has been published in Sport, Turbine, Landfall, and numerous other literary journals. Much of Tse’s writing reflects his own heritage and cultural concerns, with his verse giving a voice to the Chinese experience in New Zealand. Tse’s debut poetry collection, How to Be Dead in a Year of Snakes, won the Jessie Mackay Prize for Best First Book of Poetry in the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. It was followed by HE'S SO MASC (AUP, 2018) and Super Model Minority (AUP, 2022).
  • Primary publisher
    Auckland University Press
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Chris Tse (1982–) is a poet and fiction writer. Of Chinese heritage, Tse works to challenge cultural understandings and representations with his writing. He is also interested in how individuals frame their multi-faceted identities and adapt their personal histories in different contexts.

Tse graduated from Victoria University of Wellington with a BA in Film and English Literature in 2004. He subsequently entered into the Creative Writing Programme at the International Institute of Modern Letters, completing his MA in 2005. Since then, Tse has worked variously as an editor, an actor, a ministerial advisor, and a publications coordinator. As a writer, his poetry and short fiction has featured in such publications as Sport, Turbine, Landfall, The New Zealand Listener, and Takahe.

Tse’s first notable literary accolade came in 2009, the year that he won the Listener/ New Zealand Chinese Association Short Story Prize for his piece At Two Speeds.

The selected poetry of Tse was published in AUP New Poets 4 (2011), a collection that also features the poetry of Erin Scudder and Harry Jones. AUP New Poets 4 is the fourth volume of the Auckland University Press’ New Poets series, which has been instrumental in launching the careers of poets such as Anna Jackson and Sonja Yelich. Tse’s section of AUP New Poets 4 is titled “Sing Joe”, and comprises poems that draw on his Chinese background and related cultural identity. Reviewer Nick Ascroft says of Tse’s poetry: “Tse’s story remains emphatically personal, emotionally reverberant in its very clipped, tightly-wound expressiveness” (Landfall Review Online).

Tse’s first poetry collection, How to Be Dead in a Year of Snakes, was published by Auckland University Press in 2014. The collection affords a voice to Cantonese goldminer Joe Kum Yung, whose 1905 murder by Lionel Terry reflects the xenophobia of early 20th century New Zealand. Tse complicates and enriches the historical crime in How to Be Dead in a Year of Snakes, problematizing the distinction between villain and hero, and creating a cultural tripartite between the European, Cantonese, and Māori cultures.

Hamish Wyatt reviewed How to Be Dead in a Year of Snakes for the Otago Daily Times: “This exciting book is a heartfelt meditation on place and people… [Tse] paints vivid pictures in words.” Lynley Edmeades noted that “The themes of the book are hefty, rich and sometimes imposing… But these themes are made alluring by being couched in layers of craftsmanship, formal experimentation and a kind of kaleidoscopic poetic play. The result is curious and original…” (Landfall).

How to Be Dead in a Year of Snakes was named as one of the New Zealand Listener’s best poetry books of 2014, and was shortlisted for the Poetry Prize in the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. For the collection, Tse was awarded the 2016 Jessie Mackay Prize for Best First Book of Poetry.

Tse's second book HE'S SO MASC was published by Auckland University Press in March 2018 and was named one of NZ Herald's Best Books of 2018, and The Spinoff's best poetry books of 2018.

Paula Harris, in a fine line, wrote: “Release” is a poem that will grab your heart and squeeze it till you gasp," and on RNZ, reviewer Charlotte Graham McLay said “…a self-assured manifesto and statement on identity and a fully realised self… I absolutely adored this book.”

Tse and Emma Barnes co-edited Out Here: An anthology of Takatāpui and LGBTQIA+ writers from Aoteaora (Auckland University Press, 2021). This landmark book is the first major anthology of writing by queer Aotearoa writers.

Chris’ most recent collection, Super Model Minority, was published by Auckland University Press in March 2022. It was longlisted for the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry (2023 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards) and was a finalist for the Gay Poetry Award at the 35th Lambda Literary Awards.

In 2022, he was named the 13th New Zealand Poet Laureate. In January 2024, his term as Poet Laureate was extended to the end of August 2025.

    April 2024
    April 2024