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Poetry and the Essay: a new conference from the organisers of Truth or Beauty

poetry-and-essay-conference-logoThe organisers of Truth or Beauty: Poetry and Biography are organising another conference that will also explore poetry that is interacting with another genre – this time the essay.

Poetry and the Essay will be held on 6–8 December 2017 at Victoria University of Wellington. Read the call for papers on the conference website:


Verse biography publications

We’re delighted to announce that two publications have resulted from the Truth or Beauty: Poetry and Biography conference.

Biography vol. 39, no. 1 (2016)

The first was a special issue of Biography journal, edited and with an introduction by Anna Jackson. It features essays that were originally papers at the conference. Contents include:

Experiments in Poetic Biography: Feminist Threads in Contemporary Long Form Poetry
Jessica Wilkinson

Articulating Artemisia: Revisioning the Lives of Women from History in Biographical Poetry
Helen Rickerby

Storying the Portrait: The Case of Mae West
Erin Scudder

The Master and the Mask: Francis Webb’s Verse Biography
Toby Davidson

“Talk (why?) with mute ash”: Anne Carson’s Nox as Therapeutic Biography
Joan Fleming

“Automythography” in Poetry: Tusiata Avia’s Bloodclot
Airini Beautrais

Hii-Stories and Haa-Stories: Polynesian Poetics as Collective Biography
Robert Sullivan

Find out more about the special issue

Truth and Beauty: Verse Biography in Canada, Australia and New Zealand

Truth and Beauty turns critical attention to an exciting genre that lies at the intersection of biography and poetry, narrative and lyric, history and the confessional.

With essays on influential verse biographers Margaret Atwood, Dorothy Porter, Michael Ondaatje, Jennifer Maiden and Anne Carson along with newer practitioners including Chris Orsman, Jordie Albiston, Robert Sullivan, Tusiata Avia and Amy Brown, this collection looks at the inevitable tensions that arise between historical fact and the work of imagination – and the competing and complementary claims of truth and beauty.

Contributors: Airini Beautrais, Amy Brown, Russell Coldicutt, Joan Fleming, Shari Kocher, Tom McLean, Bridget Orr, Ian Rae, Erin Scudder and Jessica L. Wilkinson.

Edited by conference organisers, Anna Jackson, Helen Rickerby and Angelina Sbroma.

Find out more about Truth and Beauty: Verse Biography in Canada, Australia and New Zealand

Public reading and book launch

Meow reading hero
It’s only few days to go now until the Truth or Beauty: Poetry and Biography conference, and we’re getting pretty excited.

We’re also taking a couple of events out into the community. On Wednesday 26th some great trans-Tasman poets will be reading at Meow cafe, and on Thursday 27th we’ll be launching Anna Jackson’s new poetry collection, I, Clodia, and Other Portraits, at Unity Books.

Visit the public events page for more information.

Guidelines for proposals

We want to get a sense of what you’re proposing to present at the conference, and also get a bit of information we could use in the conference programme. So we’d like the following things in your proposal:

  • let us know what kind of presentation it will be, whether participation in a panel discussion, a 20-minute academic paper,  a 20-minute reading with discussion, or participating in a group reading (each reader will have about five minutes)
  • the title of your paper or presentation which we can include in the programme – it should give some indication of what your paper will be about (not required for panel discussions or group reading)
  • an abstract or outline of your paper, or an indication of the topics you’d be interested in talking about in a panel discussion (not required for group reading)
  • a brief biographical note (around 100 words).

An abstract should be around 200 to 400 words and should include, briefly, the main texts you’re planning to refer to – whether it is your own poetry or poetry by others – and the themes and issues you intend to explore, which should relate to the theme of the conference.

Further information could be included separately if required.

Get in touch with the conference organisers if you’d like further advice or information: Helen Rickerby ( , Anna Jackson ( and Angelina Sbroma (