'Possession felt to me the most arresting, the most urgent, the most relentless.

Its disruptiveness keeps calling me back, and it casts a well-controlled uneasiness,

with all its violence and threat, its "grinning and appeasing", and its derailing of

conventional narrative experience.' - Chrissy Williams, 2024 Free Verse Prize

The Poetry Society, London


'Poems of delicacy and power, arresting specificity and intriguing

obliqueness.' — David Gilbey, Charles Sturt University,

Editor, fourW 2023



'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...

Dioramas of ‘intimate femicide’, polaroids surfaced from private violence, hair-raising radiance rendered

with visceral force and unyielding precision, Wes Lee’s poems set to work, with exactly this kind

of brutal magnification, on the personal core. ' 

Tracey Slaughter, Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2022


'The Terrific Beating of My Heart by Wes Lee... A perfect miniature.' 

— Kate Camp, Best New Zealand Poems 2021



'Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 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 StrettonKete: New books from Aotearoa



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

Paula GreenNZ Poetry Shelf 2022



'By the Lapels . . . 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 HarveyLandfall Review Online,

July 2020, 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, Takahē 98, May 2020


'Wes Lee artfully observes grief, familial bonds, and the minutiae of domesticity

in her haunting new poem The Milestones.'

Sam Le Butt, The Selkie, May 2020


'The winners of the Poetry New Zealand Prize for 2019 are especially enthralling.

Wes Lee’s first prize poem The Things She Remembers #1 is a swoon

of images that shout and burst.' - Emma Shi

Book Review: Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2019,

The Reader: The Booksellers New Zealand Blog


'If I had to pick a standout poem, I would point to The Things She Remembers #1

by Wes Lee. It's a terrific poem, that's certainly one to remember.' - 

Harry Ricketts, Book Review - Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2019

Nine to Noon, June 4, Radio New Zealand National


'I was hooked by Wes Lee‘s winning tour-de-force of a poem,

The Things She Remembers #1. Phrases accumulate like a rollercoaster

memory pulling you along in a blaze of sharpness and surprise.'

- Paula Greenreview of Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2019

- NZ Poetry Shelf


'The Things She Remembers #1 is a truly remarkable piece...

It completely transfixed me.' – Jack Ross, Poetry New Zealand,

Massey University Press, 2019


'Body, Remember... 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


'By the Lapels... 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


'Body, Remember... 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, 2019


'As finalists I chose four poems, all of which left me something to think about further.

They all give a sense of something waiting to be resolved, something not quite sayable,

at the limits of language. Awe by Wes Lee... A poem barely under control after

the shock and disorientation of ‘a grave event’; the poet casting around

feeling inadequate, trying to come to terms — but far too early —

with something disproportionate to previous experience.'

— Cilla McQueen, 2019 Takahē Monica Taylor Poetry Prize


'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 2018


‘I like that there’s no commitment to poetry or prose... 

There’s a commitment to incompletion and urgency, fast or slow. 

The work is full of dark intimations and melancholy yet it still seems 

more about the action of feelings, the chemistry somehow. The sentences, lines 

phrases are staccato, sometimes incomplete, as heavy and black as the 

lines themselves on the page. One is pummelled by life and weirdly joyous 

at the incredibly frank state of arrival of their own being 

in writing.’ – Eileen Myles - The Sarah Broom Poetry Prize 2018


‘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, May 2018, Otago University Press


The Way They Live Now... Wonderful! I really love this piece.’ – Sally Rooney

 – The Stinging Fly, May 2018 



‘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  Takahē Magazine, August 2017



Her... A surprising, interesting, and strong poem... telling

a story with economy and power. All three of the winning poets’ voices

are distinctive and assured. I’d like to read more work

by each of them; much more.’ – Anne French

The New Zealand Poetry Society 2018

International Poetry Competition


‘Combines an oblique narrative with poignant emotion.’ – The Overton

Poetry Prize 2017, Loughborough University


‘Wes Lee’s One Summer: Orcas in the Bay drew my attention from its first line... 

The ending is superb, not a let-down, but a polishing before setting 

the experience reverently down.’– Elizabeth Smither 

The Takahē Monica Taylor Poetry Prize 2017


Body, Remember... Amazing poems... very powerful.’

Rosanna Hildyard Eyewear Publishing



Body, Remember... 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 The Big Bookend


‘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 Press



'Shooting Gallery... 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 Issue 233, The 70th Anniversary Issue,

Otago University Press, May 2017


‘I really loved Thirsty... an original, funny, and clever story.

There’s so much you could teach about honouring one’s own

unique voice.’ – Laurie Steed Margaret River Press


Shooting Gallery...‘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 - Best Books of 2017


Outside the window the wild world still calls... The prizewinning poems

stood out especially because they had that special gift of being able to create

their own imaginative universes. They were poems that felt almost hermetically

sealed, complete in their structures and images and sounds and rhythms,

poems that were in love with language: they felt in a strange way as if they

had always been written. But they also took risks, formal risks, imaginative risks,

and risks of feeling.’ – Deryn Rees-Jones The Troubadour Poetry Prize


Recovery Room... Powerful poems of witness and survival.’

– Amy Wack The Troubadour Poetry Prize


Glass Eye... a beautifully observed child’s eye portrait of a grandfather.’

– Hannah Lowe Oxford Brookes University

International Poetry Competition


Cowboy Genes... In Wes Lee’s beautiful collection of short fiction,

the shadow of death looms.’ – Michael Stewart 

University of Huddersfield Press


‘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


Farm... a thoroughly imagined piece of writing.’

– Jack Ross We Society Poetry Prize, Printable Reality


Sand... tonally satisfying and nicely underplayed.’

– Harvey Molloy The NZSA Poetry Competition


Cowboy Genes... Powerful, dynamic short stories.’

Alex Hopwood - University of Huddersfield



‘I really loved Montauk– it was such an original and beautiful 

piece of writing.’ – Kalinda Ashton The Sleepers Almanac


‘Marvellous work.’ – Vanessa Gebbie


‘Artworld horror and horror of art in the fury of Furious Type.’

– Tim Jones The New Zealand Poetry Society

Poetry Competition


These Last Desires by Wes Lee... fine writing and satisfying construction.’

– Graham Beattie Beattie's Blog


Surgery Dog... is driven and intense. The image of the dog is shocking,

and the last line not only surprised me but told me something new

about the experience of surgery.’ – Pascale Petit 

Cafe Writers Poetry Prize


Deliverance... impressed with its film-noir edge and poignant gestures

to what passes for intimacy in the modern age. It’s a story

that lingers long in the mind.’ – Biscuit Publishing


‘Wes Lee’s The Joy Chair Shockers... I chose the final stories because they are

wonderful. Because they lifted me to heights of understanding, because

they pushed me into those dark places where only writers and mad people go.’

Amanda Le Bas De Plumetot - Page Seventeen Short Story

& Poetry Competition


Tigers... a wonderful story that dances confidently along that tricky line 

between telling too much and telling too little. This is very fine writing.

It made me envious and it made me cry.’

– Sue McCauley The Bronwyn Tate Memorial Award



‘Like the very best of funny stories, Wes Lee in Advent, set up a wonderful

scenario, and let the humour emerge not through jokes, or witty repartee,

but through the situation itself.’

– Sue Orr The Rodney Writes Premier Award



‘Deftness and pace, plus a powerful emotional content distinguished Ciao Bella.

I was impressed by the allusive, controlled and almost bleak lyricism 

of the writing.’

– David Hill The NZSA National Short Story Competition


‘I was very impressed by Postcard from Paris... complex, sexy, tragic.

Europe was beautifully evoked.’ – Carl Nixon The Page & Blackmore

National Short Story Award



This Moment Between Things... A terrific story. How I love this piece

– it’s really quite delightful – almost deceptive, the way it creeps up on you.’

– Louise Swinn The Sleepers Almanac


‘I have been reading your work over the past few weeks and I am now a big fan 

of your writing.’ – Francesca Main,

Editoral Director, Picador



‘Wes Lee’s Saul explores death with a light touch. Its oblique examination

of what it means to live and what it means to die is strikingly perceptive.’

– Diane Stubbings Meet Some of Austraiia's Best,

Canberra Times 17.12.2011



‘Afterlife... a gorgeous story.’

– Geoff Lemon Going Down Swinging


‘Wes Lee’s Tigers accomplishes a lot in a little time. A story so short has to move 

quickly and with precision... All the more affecting for its subtlety of tone

and delivery.’ – Anthony Caleshu The Short FICTION Prize,

University of Plymouth Press


Unimportant Things... For those who delight in flight and flutter, in lives as rapid

as our own, in pulses that seem to momentarily exist beyond the need

for hearts, these fine stories await and will be worth your time.’

– Toby Litt Talking to Strangers,

The Belvadere Writers Anthology


Plush... From the opening lines I just knew I was going somewhere special.’

– Kate Rotherham The Albury City Short Story Competition


Crash Test Dummies The Gardenia Girls... This is writing of high skill

and insight, writing that knows a lot about life and about writing

and knows that withholding is as vital as telling, writing that relishes control

yet teeters on the brink of losing everything. 

Disturbing yet fruitfully so.’ – Michael Hulse 

City of Derby Short Story Competition



Soon You Won’t See Me... The finalists from this year’s Fish Publishing

Short Story Prize were universally strong, and from these we have selected

winners, we believe, of exceptional virtue.’

– David Mitchell & Carlo Gebler 

The Fish Short Story Prize


Home Movies... Sometimes a story strikes the judge so forcefully that he or she

has a sense that here is the winner even before all the others are considered.

Wes Lee is an accomplished wordsmith.’

– Owen Marshall The Dan Davin Literary Award



Two in the Morning... Your beautiful, impressionistic story was outstanding.’

– Barbara Trapido Ilkley Literature Festival Short Story Prize


Drowning with Garnet... After two lines I was hooked: Haunting, assertive

and refreshing, taking me somewhere different without ever losing me.

A bold piece of work.’

– Robyn Young The New Writer Short Story Prize


‘Wes Lee’s Westerns topped the list. The style and the content and the plot

– the secret history of a recovery - all worked together to create a tight, interesting

story. Dreams rarely work in fiction, but this story proved an exception.’

– David Means The Flosca Prize


‘Wes Lee’s This Moment Between Things... I am looking for stories that take leaps

of pure literary magic, working by a subliminal mysterious process, thus they are

works of alchemy and discovery.’

Kate Braverman The Kate Braverman Short Story Prize

- National League of American Pen Women,

Nob Hill, San Francisco



Postcard from Paris... A strong story at the cutting edge of things.’

– Ron Butlin The William Soutar Writing Prize


Ginnel... A clarity of language and a fine balance of thought and feeling... 

transformative.’ – Neil Astley Poetry London Prize


‘I loved We had a little summer by Wes Lee. There are poems that seem to be 

hardly there at all but move the heart with the least amount

of apparent effort.’

– George Szirtes Essex Poetry Festival

Open Poetry Prize



Sunflowers... a powerful poem, capturing the true horror of the protests

in the Long Kesh incarcerations. A merciless, no-holds-barred poem

with a final image almost out of a Francis Bacon painting.’

– Christopher North Poetry on the Lake



Furniture... This is a very accomplished story that hides its sophistication

beneath language that proceeds effortlessly. Sophisticated in its construction, 

persuasive in its telling, this story is in a class of its own.’

– Lloyd Jones The BNZ Katherine Mansfield Literary Award