The short version:
Joanna Preston (she/her) is an Australian-born, dual Aus/NZ citizen, poet, editor and freelance writing tutor, who lives in a small rural town in Canterbury, New Zealand. In 2008 she won the inaugural Kathleen Grattan Award for Poetry. Her first collection, The Summer King, was published by Otago University Press in July 2009, and won the Mary Gilmore Award for the best first poetry collection by an Australian author in 2010. Her second collection, tumble, also published by OUP, came out in November 2021, and won the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry at the 2022 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.
She has an MPhil in Creative Writing from the University of Glamorgan (now the University of South Wales). She worked for three years as a part-time tutor in Creative Writing at Christchurch Polytech (now Ara Institute), was co-editor of Kokako magazine from 2009 to 2012, and poetry editor for takahē magazine from 2014 to 2016. She is a committee member of the Canterbury Poets’ Collective, and an editor for Sudden Valley Press.
In a previous life, she won the 1988 Winton to Longreach Stockman’s Hall of Fame Endurance Ride. In this one, she’s a chook mama, ring mistress of The Poetry Class, and laissez-faire gardener.
The longer version:
She was born in Sydney in 1972. Her childhood was spent in various outback towns in New South Wales, with her maternal grandparents’ farm – Cowarral, on the Forbes River – the one constant. She grew up surrounded by books, and wrote stories, songs, plays and poems from a very early age.
In 1993 she emigrated to Christchurch in New Zealand, and married scientist Stewart, whom she had met at university. In 1998 she joined the Airing Cupboard Women Poets group, and began writing poetry seriously.
She received a BA from the University of New South Wales, majoring in Theatre and Film Studies, with a secondary major in The History and Philosophy of Science and Technology. During her final year at university she studied Creative Writing with poet Hazel Smith.
From 2003 to 2006 she lived in the United Kingdom. She received an MPhil in Creative Writing from the University of Glamorgan, studying under Gillian Clarke, Tony Curtis and Sheenagh Pugh. (Excerpts from Joanna’s thesis, Weaving Complexity: beyond the single, linear narrative in contemporary poetry, can be read in the Analysis & Commentary section.)
In 2005 she was one of the two featured Broadsheet Poets in the Australian issue of Agenda (41:1-2), and had a poem (’The Pride of Lions’) selected for Best Australian Poems 2005. In 2007 Carcanet selected eleven of her poems for inclusion in New Poetries IV. Her first collection, The Summer King, was published by Otago University Press in 2009, and won both the inaugural Kathleen Grattan Award (2008), and the 2010 Mary Gilmore Award for the best first poetry collection by an Australian author. Her second collection, tumble, also published by OUP, came out in November 2021, and won the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry at the 2022 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.
Her poem ‘Fault’ is included in the ESA Level 2 English Study Guide; ‘The Pride of Lions‘ in the Cambridge International Examinations anthology of Poetry in English, Songs of Ourselves vol. 2; and ’Visit to Nicky’s House’ appeared in Sarah Gallagher’s Scarfie Flats of Dunedin. ‘The dollhouse’ was selected by Phantom Billstickers and displayed on advertising bollards across New Zealand.
Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including: Acumen, Dreamcatcher, Envoi, The Interpreter’s House, Iota, Magma, Poetry Wales, Smiths Knoll, and South in the UK, Barnwood Poetry Magazine, Chronogram, Contemporary Haibun 4, 5 , 8 & 10, Frogpond and Sub Tropics in the US, Big Sky, Glottis, Landfall, JAAM, Poetry New Zealand, takahē, The Press, Under Flagstaff and The Unbelievable Lightness of Eggs in New Zealand, and Cordite, Four Tellings, four W, Hobo, Imago, Island, LiNQ, Southerly, and Tirra Lirra in Australia.
She co-edited the 3rd Airing Cupboard anthology, Half Light and High Wind (2000) with Helen Bascand and Lynn Tara Austin, and the haiku anthology, listening to the rain (2002) with Cyril Childs. (listening to the rain was runner-up in the Haiku Merit Book Awards 2003, for the best anthology of English language haiku published the previous year). She has also edited and produced three competition anthologies for the New Zealand Poetry Society: A Savage Gathering (2002), the infinity we swim in (2007) and Before the Sirocco (2008). She co-edited the anthology Leaving the Red Zone: poems from the Canterbury earthquakes (Clerestory Press, 2016) with James Norcliffe, and broken lines / in charcoal (Pukeko Publications, 2020), with Karen Zelas. She also edited Helen Bascand’s posthumous fifth collection, time to sing before the dark (Caxton Press, 2018).
She was a foundation member of The Australian Haiku Society, the Small White Teapot Haiku Group, and the Lost Friday Salon. She was a committee member of the Canterbury Poets’ Collective from 2001-2003 (and is so again, returning in 2018) and was an active member of Spin magazine’s Orbital Poetry Workshops 1998-2001. Joanna was co-editor of Kokako magazine from 2009 to 2012, and poetry editor for takahē magazine from 2014 to 2016.
She has been a guest reader for the Canterbury Poets’ Collective on numerous occasions, as well as for National Poetry Day (2001), the United Nations “Dialogue Between Nations” Poetry Reading in Christchurch (2002), and the Dunedin Fringe Festival (2002). In 2010 she was the International Guest Poet at the Perth Spring Poetry Festival, and in 2011 was guest reader at both the Southland Festival of the Arts and Auckland Writers and Readers Festival. In 2022 she was a guest reader at the Auckland Writers Festival (where she performed with violinist Joella Pinto), Word Christchurch, and The Ladies Litera-tea Party. She was also one of the featured poets on the 2022 Aus-NZ Poetry Showcase.
She runs regular poetry workshops in Canterbury and beyond under the name The Poetry Class, and mentors local poets. She also teaches at Hagley Writers’ Institute, and is an editor at Sudden Valley Press.
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