Kevin Ireland is a renowned poet, librettist and author of novels, short stories and two volumes of memoir. One of the so-called ‘sons of Sargeson’, he was a co-founder of the literary journal Mate. Ireland left for the United Kingdom in 1959, and lived there for 25 years, much of that time working for The Times. In this time away, he nonetheless consistently saw himself as a New Zealander and published his poetry in New Zealand. He has been awarded a New Zealand 1990 Medal, an OBE for services to literature, and received a Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in 2004, and the A. W. Reed Award for Contribution to New Zealand Literature in 2006, for the outstanding support he has given as a writer to the New Zealand literary community. His first volume of memoir, Under the Bridge and Over the Moon, won the history and biography section of the 1999 Montana New Zealand Book Awards. He has been a writer in residence at the University of Canterbury, and a writing fellow at the University of Auckland, as well as a Sargeson Fellow, and has been awarded a DLitt by Massey University. He was the assistant editor of Quote Unquote.
A minimalist in style, his poetry is lyrical and often reflects a sense of isolation and distance. Both his poetry and prose are known for an often wry humour and irony. In reviewing Ireland’s second volume of memoir, Backwards to Forwards, Margie Thomson in The New Zealand Herald began by saying that ‘two talents that Kevin Ireland has in abundance’ are writing and friendship, and concluded that you can’t ‘but be charmed by the hail-fellow-well-met attitude with which he has made his way through life, counting everyone from his local publican to leading British painter Francis Bacon among his buddies. It’s an oddball spyglass on days we have now spun past, recounted with great good humour by a natural-born storyteller.’