'A Wes Lee poem is a detonation - you don't come away from it untouched.' 

   - Tracey Slaughter


 'The work is full of dark intimations and melancholy... one is pummelled by life

  and weirdly joyous at the incredibly frank state of arrival of their own being

  in writing.'

   - Eileen Myles


Born and raised in a working class household in northern England, Wes Lee now lives in Aotearoa

New Zealand. She has three poetry collections: By the Lapels (Steele Roberts Aotearoa, 2019);

Body, Remember (Black Spring Press, London, 2017); Shooting Gallery (Steele Roberts Aotearoa,

2016), and a chapbook of short fiction Cowboy Geneswinner of The Grist Chapbook Prize

(Grist Books, University of Huddersfield, 2014). Her writing has appeared in a wide array

of literary journals and anthologies in New Zealand, Australia and the UK including 

Best New Zealand Poems, Poetry London, The London Magazine, The Stinging Fly, Westerly, Cordite, 

Magma, Landfall, Poetry New Zealand, New Writing Scotland, The Stony Thursday Book, The New Zealand 

ListenerAustralian Poetry Journal, Southword. She has won a number of awards for her writing

including The BNZ Katherine Mansfield Literary Award; The Bronwyn Tate Memorial Award; 

The Dan Davin Literary Award; The Short Fiction Prize (University of Plymouth Press); 

The Over the Edge New Writer of the Year in IrelandShe has been selected as a finalist in a

number of high profile international poetry prizes including The London Magazine Poetry Prize

The Troubadour Poetry Prize, and commended in the Poetry London Prize. Most recently

she was awarded the 2024 Free Verse Prize by The Poetry Society, in London; the Heroines

Joyce Parkes Women's Writing Prize 2022 in Australia, and the Poetry New Zealand Prize 2019

(Massey University Press). Selected as a finalist for the Fool for Poetry Chapbook Prize 2023 

(Munster Literature Centre, Ireland), and the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize 2018. Shortlisted

for The Poetry London Pamphlet Prize 2023; the Kathleen Grattan Poetry Award 2023 

(Otago University Press; NZSA Peter & Dianne Beatson Fellowship 2022; the Alastair Reid

Poetry Pamphlet Prize 2022 in Scotland; the 2022 Booranga Prize for Best Poem (Charles Sturt

University); The NZSA Laura Solomon Cuba Press Prize in 20212022 & 2023.  And selected

as featured poet in the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2022 by Tracey Slaughter.



The 2024 Free Verse Prize, The Poetry Society, London

The Stinging Fly Podcast 2022: Susannah Dickey reads Wes Lee

Featured Poet: Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2022

Best New Zealand Poems 2021

Best New Zealand Poems 2019

Read NZ Te Pou Muramura (NZ Book Council)



Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2022

launched by Massey University Press

in New Zealand

Includes over 30 pages of poems & an interview by this year's featured poet, Wes Lee.


'The body remembers in Wes Lee’s poems, pronouncing its truth in strange flashes, loading her pages

with dark stills from an unconscious screen — yet simultaneously Lee articulates her lines with

tense poetic control, sharpening language to scalpel point against the places the body is silenced.

It is this use of acute poetic practice to chart the psyche’s bloodied spaces — to tap through sheer

craft to the carnal baseline of memory and its charged contortions, to front through a fierce, honed

wielding of form the ‘blast holes’ where trauma has forged the body — that has always left me awed

in reading Lee’s work, accosted, exhilarated, struck.' — Tracey Slaughter, 2022


'This edition's featured poet, Wes Lee, shows the reader many worlds nestled in her 21 pieces ...

She unflinchingly uses words as a scalpel to eviscerate "low-key, incidental, domestic" incidents,

exposing their bloodied internals ... Her poems explore many facets of the human condition

but I was most drawn to those focused intently on the body, mesmerised by the razor-sharp

attention to detail.' — Erica Stretton, Kete: New books from Aotearoa


'The poems walk on a precarious edge of living. They scratch and lash, they tilt you as read..'

— Paula Green, NZ Poetry Shelf


The Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2022 is available in bookstores throughout New Zealand,

including Unity Books, Whitcoulls, Poppies Bookshop. And can be purchased direct

from Massey University Press.




By the Lapels launched in 2019

by Steele Roberts Aotearoa

in Wellington

'Raw, frank, yet exquisitely crafted', By the Lapels is Wes Lee's second full-length collection of poetry.

An oblique narrative told in fragments, scenes half-glimpsed. The poems unfold, adopting a variety of

poetic personas, interrogating the body, interrogating memory, highlighting a tenuous sense of existence, a

constant negotiation with being in the world.


'This is poetry that is emphatic in its capacity to endure. It is the song playing on the car

wireless, which greets the first-responders at the scene of a crash. It is witness and black-box . . .

Wes Lee's collection strips sentiment right down to its agonised nerves. It is the brutal, beautiful

crash-landing into the world, the terror of a newsfeed, the animal who has 'seen too much: imprinted

/ on her retinas' . . . Pain is something to carry, and Lee carries it elegantly, and with fierce instinct.

The determination is dogged, vital, and excruciating . . . In a literary scene increasingly fronted

by the gaudy and the cynical, these words quake the pages with their truth.' — Elizabeth Morton,

Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2021, Massey University Press


'In her second powerful collection, By the Lapels, Wes Lee shows that she shares Tony Beyer’s deeply mulled

poetic impressionism. The book reads as a novel-like narrative, each poem a slanted entry point to the

ongoing story. The first offering, ‘The Things She Remembers’ is a case in point. A list poem of snatched

image-moments... As in subsequent verses in the collection, this almost-comic set up, combining absurdity

with poetry, becomes – through a series of sharp authorial observations and linguistic twists – something

tragic and profound.' — Siobhan Harvey, Landfall Review Online, Otago University Press


'By the Lapels is a diverse, edgy read ... Illuminated by sharp-eyed observation, personal insight and,

most of all, a generous sense of our shared humanity.' — Patricia Prime, Takahe 98


‘The work is full of dark intimations and melancholy ... One is pummelled by life and weirdly joyous at the

incredibly frank state of arrival of their own being in writing.’ — Eileen Myles, 

Sarah Broom Poetry Prize


‘I was delighted by her ability to explore form and deploy a lucid, image-laden, evocative sense in

her writing ... I kept thinking as I read these poems what they constantly achieve is aligned with the logic

of écriture féminine, and of what Irigaray promised us women writers would eventually achieve: ‘Don’t weep.

One day we will learn to say ourselves.’ — Jen Webb, University of Canberra


'This is very powerful writing that doesn’t flinch from difficult, sometimes painful subjects. Dense with

visual imagery. Haunted by a sense of enclosure in so many different locations. ‘The wildness I carried away

with me’ seems to be the right phrase for the narrator and the reader after this collection.' – Kerry

Featherstone and Carol Rowntree-Jones, The Overton Poetry Prize 


'One of the best reading experiences I've had this year.' - John Levy (Silence Like Another Name, 2020)


'Such a strong collection. Dennis Nilsen's Dog Bleep especially, such a great poem! And Polaroids, a brilliant

tribute to Andrea Dunbar.' - Michael Stewart, University of Huddersfield


By the Lapels is available from ubiq books: University of AucklandUnity Books, Fishpond, or direct

from Steele Roberts Aotearoa.

Black Spring Press launches

Body, Remember in London

as part of the Lorgnette Series 2017

'Body, Remember' takes its title from a poem by the Greek poet C.P. Cavafy, who, in sensuous

imagery, illuminates the persistence and power of the body-memory of desire. Conversely, in this

pamphlet, Lee addresses the body’s capacity to hide, to deceive, and draw a veil of silence, to create

a blank space within when faced with trauma.


‘These poems are quiet, controlled and sparse, with an accurate ear for rhythm. Body, Remember is a

satisfyingly cohesive collection, each poem adding something to the previous and the next. I found

them intense, strong and immensely powerful.’ – Diane Brown - Landfall Review Online, Otago

University Press


'In a beautifully coherent cycle of 20 poems, Lee explores the memory of childhood trauma in its bodily

immediacy. Unembarrassed, she speaks it aloud, inhabiting the poetic space without shame ... Lee's minute-

by-minute physical reactions, the stuff that happens with breathing and muscles and skin, are never

pathologised or pitied — instead we are invited to trust in their concrete, corporeal logic and bear witness, as

the body does daily, to the terrible events that they index.' — Elisabeth Kumar,

Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2020


'In this powerful pamphlet, Wes Lee investigates how the body can play the role of both subject and

object... It is this lack of being that Lee captures so well, this idea that everything’s present but

something’s still missing.' – Callan Waldron-Hall, Sphinx: Poetry Pamphlet Reviews and Features,



‘In Body, Remember, Wes Lee catalogues a ‘domino of broken things’ with deft poignancy and dark

humour. She draws our attention to the fact, that even as we read and breathe, our bodies are in a

state of breaking.’ – Michael Stewart, University of Huddersfield


‘Wes Lee's beautiful, sobering collection gives a skeleton upon which to hang the intangible. It

speaks to transience, to trauma, to the inevitability of time passing.’ – S. J. Bradley, author of

Brick Mother, and editor, The Big Bookend


‘Amazing poems... very powerful.’ – Rosanna Hildyard


Body, Remember is available in bookstores in the UK, and can be ordered online from the Poetry Book

Society, Amazon, Fishpond, and direct from Black Spring Press in London.


Shooting Gallery launched

in 2016 by Steele Roberts Aotearoa

in Wellington

'Shooting Gallery is stunning. The poems are assured, brave, and many have already been published

in a wide array of NZ and international journals... The body is prime. And although throughout the

collection pain and indignity are often a given, there is also a glorying in the physical, the sensual;

there is verve, and poems that punch the air celebrating survival... It is striking that in these poems,

no one is judged. The first thing that Wes Lee concerns herself with in Shooting Gallery is the

humanity of each person. Here, the last shall be first, and she ensures that, in this marvellous

collection, we know why this should be the case.’Carolyn McCurdie, Takahe Magazine


“The body is where you begin” could be a tag for this whole book of short sharp poems that knock

against your skull. There’s a woman living in a car, there’s a clown living in you, there’s a couple

living in a barn with a dog and a boar, there’s a memory living in a hotel, there’s a self living in a

mirror ... A book stuffed with tough stuff.’ – Murray Edmond, NZ Poetry Shelf


‘This is a collection of devastating beauty and power. It's rare to find poetry that can convey so

much, with such brevity.’ – SJ Bradley, author of Brick Mother, and editor, The Big Bookend


‘With remarkable economy, Wes Lee conjures striking poetic images of the contemporary world.’

– Demos Journal 


‘There are times in this tough-minded and tender-hearted book when you are persuaded that your

odds are not good. On the other hand there are moments – and moments matter for Wes Lee – when

the balance of the universe tips back in your favour.’ – Murray Edmond, Landfall 233: The 70th

Anniversary Issue


Shooting Gallery is available from Unity Books, and can be ordered direct from Steele Roberts in

Wellington, or Fishpond



Cowboy Genes launched at the

Huddersfield Literature Festival 

in 2014 

'Of the five stories in Cowboy Genes, three struck me: Diseases from Space, The Gardenia Girls, and

especially Crash Test Dummies. If you are weary of cheap cynicism being passed off as profundity,

you’ll feel great empathy for Victor, the central character of this story, who yearns for things that are

life-changing, life-affirming.’ – Jim Greenhalf, Telegraph & Argus


'There's real depth, complexity and darkness to these stories. I really can't believe Wes Lee

isn't a big name on the short story scene because her work is really very special. If you like the

kind of work that David Lynch makes — dark human stories with an air of strangeness then

this will be way up your street. The quality here is outstanding.' — Dr. Mark Ellis, Amazon.uk, 2019


‘Poignant and accomplished.’ – Jazz Croft, NZ Booklovers


‘In Wes Lee’s beautiful chapbook of short fiction, the shadow of death looms.’ – Michael Stewart

(Cafe Assassin, 2015)


Cowboy Genes is published by Grist Books at the University of Huddersfield and is available

from Amazon and Inpress Books