‘I know I was writing stories when I was five. I don’t know what I did before that. Just loafed, I suppose’. P.G. Wodehouse


kay close-up b&w
Photo taken by photographer, Kate Cooke


I am Kay McKenzie Cooke, the oldest child in a family of seven. I am the daughter of the late Donald Patrick McKenzie and the late Shirley Alison McKenzie (nee Lee).

Through my mother’s line, I am tangata whenua and as well, have Scottish, and English descent.

Through my father’s line, I am of Scottish and Irish descent.

My awa / river is the Waiau, Southland, my maunga / mountain, the Takitimu range, the maraes I identify with are Aparima, Waihopai and Hokonui. My iwi is Kai Tahu. As well, I am of Kati Mamoe and Ngati kahungunu descent.

I live in Dunedin with my husband Robert and we are grandparents to eight grandchildren.

After completing the Myers Brigg persoality test over twenty years ago now, I discovered I am INFJ (Introverted Intuitive Feeling Judging). And on the Enneagram personality chart, I am a Number 6 (personified as a deer) with a Number 5 wing (personified as an owl). These tests indicate that I tend towards being fairly quiet, pretty organised, rather sensitive and very wary. My believe my temperament is a mix of Melancholic and Phlegmatic.

I spent my formative years in the small seaside town of Orepuki, located on the south-western coast of the South Island of New Zealand. Here I was introduced to wild weather and the craft of writing; my mother encouraging me from an early age to write a weekly poem or short story for the children’s page of the ‘Southland Times’. I was also an avid reader. ‘Anne of Green Gables’ by LM Montgomery, being my absolute favourite.

When I was ten years old, we moved inland to Otama Valley, Northern Southland, a green and lonely valley-landscape twenty miles away from the township of Gore. After four years as a pupil at the small, two-roomed, country school of Wendon, I attended Gore High School. During this time I continued to express myself through writing and began to develop my own style. I enjoyed reading the poems of such poets as John Keats, Dylan Thomas and Eleanor Farjeon. Writers such as John Steinbeck, James Baldwin, the Brontes, Jane Austen, Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, Madeline L’Engle, Francoise Sagan, were favourite authors at this stage. In the 3rd Form (Year 9) a poem of mine was chosen to be printed in the GHS magazine, which was a highlight for me.

In the early 1970’s I left my  Southland home to attend Dunedin Teacher’s College where, again, I had poems published in the T. Coll magazine, Te Rama. I continued to read both prose and poetry. Sam Hunt, Fleur Adcock and Alistair Campbell provided me with my first taste of New Zealand poetry. Poetry anthologies of English and American poetry were favourite reads for me. From here, I entered into a teaching career and marriage. Parenthood followed, during which time I continued to write sporadic, sparse pieces  – mostly poetry or descriptive journal-type writing. As well, I was a faithful keeper of diaries; the now old-fashioned concept of the Five Year Diary being a favourite way of recording.

Sometime during the late-1980’s (at the same time as starting up and running an early childhood pre-school, therefore adding to the crazy-busy nature of my life at that time) I decided to take writing seriously, attending evening writing classes run by the well-known Dunedin teacher, the late Charles Croot. As well, I completed several Otago University English Department papers. Among these was a Writing Workshop Paper taken by lecturer and writer Dr. John Dolan, who encouraged me to submit my first poetry m.s. to Otago University Press.

In 2002, my first collection, ‘Feeding the Dogs’ was published by Otago University Press and won the Jessie McKay prize for the Best First Book of Poetry, awarded at the NZ Book Awards, 2003. My second collection, ‘Made for Weather’ was published by Otago University Press in 2007. My third poetry book, ‘Born to a Red-Headed Woman’ was published by Otago University Press in May, 2014.

Recently I have branched out into novel-writing, finishing a m.s. which is presently looking for a publisher. I have also recently submitted a poetry m.s. for my fourth collection of poetry, titled: ‘Why Did We Think We Were Ugly?’

With Dunedin writer Jenny Powell, I am the ‘K’ component of the J&K Rolling poetry-reading duo. We travel to rural areas with our poetry and invite people from the rural communities we visit, to read their own poetry. ‘Breaking City Limits for Fine Country Lines’, is our by-line. 2018 is is our fourth year of operation. Go HERE to read about our ventures.

Among other things on this site, my Blog page, ‘Time & Place’, is where I record my thoughts. In order to appease my photo-taking habit, these recorded thoughts are accompanied by photos. The thoughts and impressions are mostly about the process of writing, getting published and the stuff of life that goes into an ordinary, everyday existence.

On the ‘Writing – A Sampler’ page, I have a link to poetry I write to accompany photos.

You can contact me on my email : kmckcooke @ gmail. com (without spaces).




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