At the Villa dei Pini

Palm and pine
cypress, olive and vine
noted, combine.

Villas that climb
and from their hill divine
on a clear day
a white ship
high on the wire of
the horizon line.

A train
a train again
through the hole in the hill
a gull afloat 
white on blue
and at noon
white wine.

Palm and pine
cypress, olive and vine . . .

C.K Stead was born in Auckland in 1932. He has published 14 collections of poems and two of short stories, eleven novels, six books of literary criticism, and edited a number of texts. His novels have been published in New Zealand and the UK, and have been translated into a dozen European languages. He was Professor of English at the University of Auckland for twenty years, before taking early retirement in 1986 to write full time. He has won a number of literary prizes, including the Katherine Mansfield Award for the short story, the Jessie Mackay Award for poetry, the New Zealand Book Award for both poetry and fiction, and the King’s Lynn Poetry Award.

He was awarded a CBE in 1985 for services to New Zealand literature, elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1995, and Senior Visiting Fellow at St John’s College, Oxford in 1997. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Letters by the University of Bristol in 2001. His latest novel, My Name was Judas was first published by Harvill Secker in 2006 and has been widely translated in Europe. His Collected Poems, 1951-2006 (winner of a Montana New Zealand Award in 2009) was published by Auckland University Press in 2008 and Carcanet in the U.K. in 2009. In 2007 he received the country’s highest award, the Order of New Zealand, and in 2009 the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Fiction. His memoir of his early years, South-West of Eden (AUP), will be launched at the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival in May 2010.

Stead comments: ' "At the Villa dei Pini" is one of a sequence of poems I wrote while holding a Bogliasco Fellowship at the Liguria Study Centre in Bogliasco, near Genoa.'

Poem source details >



New Zealand Book Council writer file
New Zealand Electronic Text Centre: online work
Best New Zealand Poems 200220042006 and 2007