Elizabeth Smither has won the 2008 Award for Literary Achievement for poetry. You can read her extended biography (which includes photos and some of her thoughts on writing) here.
I am engrossed in her novel The sea between us (2003, Penguin). It is rich and poetic, as you'd expect. The biography (listed above) hints at the origin of various aspects of the story.
The sea between us is a family saga, spanning about a century in Australia and NZ. Four sisters are at the centre - a challenge, all these characters needing to be kept individual. The details are abundant, but things are not over-explained, so that sometimes you wonder about something - did they marry?- and then find out some pages later, in an indirect and satisfying way.
I haven't finished it yet - can't wait to get back to it.
I had been reading East of Time, a holocaust memoir by Jacob Rosenberg, who emigrated to Australia after surviving the Lodz ghetto. He was about 5 years old when the invasion of Poland took place so he must now be about 83. The writing is occasionally rocky, but the overall effect is powerful and to me, heart-rending. The sadness - as usual - took me by surprise, and so I left it half finished for The Sea.
He included a few useful things about writing - but that'll be for another time.