Bill Sewell was born in Athens, Greece, in 1951 and spent his childhood in Southern Europe, the Middle East, and England, where he received his primary school education. He came to New Zealand at fourteen. Sewell was educated at the Universities of Auckland and Otago, completing a Ph.D. in German at the latter, where he also lectured. Thereafter, he worked as an editor with John McIndoe and the University of Otago Press. In 1981 and 1982, he was awarded the Burns Felowship at the University of Otago, and in 1982 published his first volume of poetry, Solo Flight. 1983 saw the release of his next collection, Wheels Within Wheels. A third collection, Making the Far Land Glow, appeared in 1986. Sewell had three further volumes of poetry published before his death in January 2003¾
Erebus (1999), El Sur (2001), and The Ballad of Fifty-one (2003). In the late 1980s, Sewell moved to Wellington and took a law degree at Victoria University, after which he worked as a legal researcher for the New Zealand Law Commission. From 1997 to 2002 he was co-editor of New Zealand Books. Sewell also co-edited a number of non-fiction works and three collections of poetry. He was posthumously awarded the first Lauris Edmond Memorial Award for Poetry in 2003.
, Dunedin: University of Otago Press, 1982
Wheels Within Wheels, Dunedin: University of Otago Press, 1983
Making the Far Land Glow, Dunedin: McIndoe, 1986
Erebus: A Poem, Christchurch: Hazard Press, 1999
El Sur, Wellington: Pemmican Press, 2001
The Ballad of Fifty-one, Wellington: HeadworX, 2003
(with Jeanette Stace), Wellington: New Zealand Poetry Society, 1991
Ginger Stardust: A Selection of Poems and Haiku from the 1992 New Zealand International Poetry Competition (with Jeanette Stace), Wellington: New Zealand Poetry Society, 1992
Sons of the Fathers: New Zealand Men Write About Their Fathers, Auckland: Tandem Press, 1997
Under Review: A Selection from New Zealand Books 1991-
1996 (with Lauris Edmond and Harry Ricketts), Lincoln: Lincoln University Press, 1997
Essential New Zealand Poems (with Lauris Edmond), Auckland: Godwit, 2001
, Wellington: GP Books, 1989
- A Guide to the Rimutaka Forest Park
By Ships We Live
lo-fi (rm : 200KB, streaming)
hi-fi (mp3 : 1.1MB )
By Ships We Live
It was a tingling in the balls that told them,
like edging too close to a rock face:
a twist of the tide, the slop of the swell,
the mercenary attentions of seabirds.
Out of the blue they broke,
the sails, the expectations, the names.
Takitimu, Heemskerck, Endeavour:
how they transported their history
as a deadening freight, as baggage,
barnacles clinging like grievances to the keel.
Then the commerce would begin:
footprints for sand; words for silence.
There, not just as the unusual event,
the sudden flaw on the curve,
but by the month, by the day,
feeling their way along the chart
for that orifice in the cliffs
and making their run through the heads:
Orpheus, Tararua, Penguin,
all finding out just how intolerant
of carelessness this coast can be,
once you sail out of line.
Yet the masts still thickened ashore,
the funnels exhaled bad faith
(according to the terms of the bargain).
While men went below as into a mine
to dig out the lampblack
that darkened their days and their lungs
and the names of the ships that carried it:
Korowai, Myrtlebank, Asunçion de Larrinaga.
[The Ballad of Fifty-one, Wellington: HeadworX, 2003]