Cliff Fell was born in London in 1955 to a New Zealand father and English mother. He has worked in a wide variety of jobs – forestry worker, archaeologist, film-maker, bank-clerk, bartender, publisher, roadie, bookseller, truckdriver, teacher, tour-guide, farmhand, musician — has travelled, lived and worked in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe, before coming to New Zealand in 1997.
He now works at the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology and lives with his family on a small farm in the Moutere Valley near Nelson.
He completed an MA in Creative Writing at Victoria University Wellington in 2002, and won the Adam Award for best folio with his first book The Adulterer’s Bible (2003). It was also awarded the New Zealand Society of Authors Jessie Mackay Best First Book Award for Poetry at the 2004 Montana New Zealand Book Awards. Fell was described by the judges as a writer with a big career ahead of him. They said this was an outstanding first book that demanded to be considered as one of the best poetry books of the year.
One of his poems from The Adulterer's Bible, "Ophelia" was named one of the Best New Zealand Poems 2003.