Poet Timaru Jordan Hamel exits Fulbright

Jordan Hamel, poet raised in Timaru and based in Pōneke.

Ebony Lamb/Provided

Jordan Hamel, poet raised in Timaru and based in Pōneke.

Timaru grew up, Pōneke/Wellington-based slam poet champion Jordan Hamel will be heading to one of the top universities in the United States after receiving a Fulbright NZ General Graduate Award.

Hamel, the 2018 New Zealand Poetry Slam Champion, represented New Zealand at the World Poetry Slam Champs in 2019 and was Michael King Writer-in-Residence in 2021.

After leaving Timaru to attend the University of Otago, where he earned a BA and LLB, Hamel moved to Wellington, where he worked as a lawyer and political adviser while continuing to publish and perform widely.

Hamel said he’s excited to be heading to the University of Michigan, where he’ll complete a two-year master of fine arts in creative writing.

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“It’s one of the best writing schools in America, so I was very excited to get into it.”

He will be leaving for Ann Arbor in August and was not worried about being overwhelmed after his small town upbringing.

“I’m moving to a college town, which I think is a good size – I’m not ready to take on New York or anything like that.”

He said the Fulbright process was intense.

“It was a pretty hectic application, and then I had to interview a very intimidating panel of board members and give a presentation, answer all these questions, and then wait nervously on the phone for a few weeks.”

Hamel, who recently wrote a “love letter to Timaru airport”, embraces his hometown.

“It’s always a complicated relationship, but I have huge affection for Timaru – my family is there, my friends are there, my whole story is there – I would never disown Timaru.

The former Roncalli College student said his secondary education was “awesome”.

“I had amazing English and drama teachers who were so supportive.”

Jordan Hamel, poet raised in Timaru and based in Poneke.

Ebony Lamb/Provided

Jordan Hamel, poet raised in Timaru and based in Poneke.

He said he visited South Canterbury regularly, about four or five times a year, but not as often as he would like, and would make a few visits before leaving for the United States.

“I really like it every time I come back. Covid makes it easier to work remotely and allows me to spend more time with family.

“I miss Timaru, and I will definitely miss Timaru while I’m gone.”

He said he would like to make writing his full-time career, but “there’s no money in it, not really.”

“I think that’s what excites me the most – it’s not having a job for two years, just being able to write and study is going to be amazing.

“Most of my free time right now is spent writing or performing, it takes up a lot of my time, so I’d like to do more and at least a little less work down the line.”

Hamel published his first book this year, Everyone But You, and is embarking on a South Island tour with Liz Breslin, Claudia Jardine and Rebecca Hawkes, performing in Timaru on July 3 at Hector Black’s.

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