Truth or Beauty anthology


For the Truth and Beauty: Poetry and Biography conference the organisers invited participants to submit biography-related poetry for an anthology. The result is this gorgeous hand-bound volume, which may be the first ever anthology of biographical poetry.

It features both new and previously published poetry by some of Australia and New Zealand’s finest poets and some important up-and-comers, including Jordie Albiston, Chris Price, Harry Ricketts, Vivienne Plumb, Amy Brown, Jessica Wilkinson, Robert Sullivan, Anna Jackson, Karlo Mila, Toby Davidson, Jack Ross, Helen Rickerby, Bella Li, Leilani Tamu, Joan Fleming, Marty Smith and Helen Heath.

How to purchase copies

Copies are available for purchase for NZ$20, plus NZ$5 for overseas postage. Email to order and arrange payment.

Introduction to the anthology

What does poetry, a form that prioritises metaphor, subtext and the play of language, bring to biography, a form based on establishing and accounting for the facts of a person’s life? Victoria University hosts the first conference on verse biography as a genre – collections of poetry based on biographical stories – with papers, discussion panels and readings running over three days from 26–28 November 2014.

This small anthology gathers together biographical poetry from participants in the Truth or Beauty: Poetry and Biography conference as a way of introducing our work to each other, and presenting some examples of the form. Even this small selection shows the variety of verse biography while demonstrating some common characteristics of the form. Some are more straightforward retellings of a life, but most take a poetic twist – are impressionistic, episodic, mythic, abstract or undermine the very idea of being able to know factual truth.

In her 1927 essay ‘The New Biography,’ Virginia Woolf wrote about the combination of ‘granite and rainbow’ the ideal biography requires. Perhaps this is particularly true of biographical poetry, with its necessary tension between different kinds of truth and beauty. There are all kinds of truth and beauty to be found in the poems of this anthology.

Anna Jackson, Helen Rickerby and Angelina Sbroma

About the editors

Anna Jackson, associate professor at Victoria University of Wellington, has published six collections of poetry, most recently I, Clodia, and Other Portraits (Auckland University Press, 2014). The first half of this collection is based on the life of Clodia Metelli, the ‘Lesbia’ who was the subject of the most passionate poetry written by Catullus in late Republic Rome.

Helen Rickerby has published four books of poetry, most recently Cinema (2014), which includes biographical poems about film-makers and her friends. Her 2008 collection, My Iron Spine, features biographical poems about women, many of whom have been neglected by history. She is the managing editor of Seraph Press, a boutique poetry publisher, and is co-managing editor of JAAM literary magazine.

Angelina Sbroma is a doctoral student in English literature at Victoria University of Wellington. Her thesis focuses on children’s fantasy literature.

Book details

Title: Truth or Beauty: Biographical Poetry by Participants in Truth or Beauty: Poetry and Biography, Victoria University of Wellington, 26–28 November 2014.
Editors: Anna Jackson, Helen Rickerby and Angelina Sbroma
Category: Poetry
ISBN: 978-0-473-30841-4
Format: Paperback, 210 mm (tall) x 148 mm (wide), 52 pages
RRP: $20
Publication date: November 2014


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