Born in 1945, Stephanie de Montalk has worked as a nurse and a documentary film maker, and is a former member of the NZ Film and Literature Board of Review. She has an MA (Dist.) and a PhD in Creative Writing. Since the mid-1990s, when she first started to write, her poetry and prose has been read on National Radio and published in Landfall, Sport and a range of other literary periodicals and anthologies in NZ and abroad. In 1997, she was joint winner of the Victoria University of Wellington Original Composition Prize, and the same year she was joint winner of the Novice Writers' Award in the Bank of New Zealand Katherine Mansfield Memorial Awards for ‘The Waiting’, her memoir of a patient's death written as fiction.
Stephanie's first collection of poetry, Animals Indoors (2000), won the NZSA Jessie Mackay Award for Best First Book of Poetry at the 2001 Montana NZ Book Awards. Guy Allen observed: ‘Stephanie de Montalk writes with unusual grace.’
Her second book, the biography-memoir Unquiet World: The Life of Count Geoffrey Potocki de Montalk (2001), was praised by Michael King as ‘a book of outstanding interest and merit’, and by Ruth Brown in the Times Literary Supplement who concluded ‘de Montalk brings her implausible relative to plausible life’. Greg O'Brien described the work as ‘magnificent’ and ‘humane’.
A second collection of poetry, The Scientific Evidence of Dr Wang (2002), appeared a year later. Hamish Wyatt wrote: ‘this is really tender, lush stuff, I think I have been seduced,’ while John Horrocks noted: ‘De Montalk likes to take on big topics: colonialisation, displacement of peoples, varieties of loss, death and grieving.’
In 2005, she was named Victoria University of Wellington's writer in residence, and her acclaimed third book of poetry, Cover Stories (2005) was released. Rachel Bush observed, ‘[de Montalk] writes with dazzling simplicity’. A poem from the book, ‘Hawkeye V4’, was selected as a Best NZ Poem of 2005. That year de Montalk's personal essay, ‘Pain’, was the centrepiece of Sport 33.
A year later she completed a novel, the poetic narrative, The Fountain of Tears (2006). Set in Poland and Russia, backgrounded by Pushkin's poema ‘The Fountain at Bakhchisaray’, the work was hailed in the Pushkin Review by Svetlana Klimova of the Linguistic University of Nishnii Novgorod as ‘A high quality work of intellectual fiction ... a powerful and compelling re-creation ... profound in its exploration of the (re) creation of one's personality in letters, dreams, life and art.’ On Radio NZ, Harry Ricketts said, ‘Fantastically ambitious ... I think it's wonderful.’ Nelson Wattie wrote, ‘I turned back and read it again.’
In 2009, a fourth collection of poetry, Vivid Familiar (2009) was published, of which Hugh Roberts wrote ‘de Montalk continues to grip us ... with the probing intelligence and nervous energy of her language.’
Stephanie's most recent publication is How Does It Hurt? (2014), a memoir and study of chronic pain. Described by Damien Wilkins as ‘groundbreaking and riveting and beautiful’, the work was published to critical and medical acclaim, and received a Nigel Cox Award at the 2015 Auckland Writers' Festival.