Jessica Le Bas


‘I commend Le Bas on her willingness to experiment and not just repeat herself. Her compassionate humaneness extends even to Osama bin Laden, who is pictured sleeping "with his brother’s children, in a room below, the sky above", "with a headache centred behind his eyes" and "with hope for a better world". Overall, this is an exceptional debut.’ – Iain Sharp, Sunday Star-Times


Relaxed and intimate, engaging and wise, Incognito is Jessica Le Bas’s first book. Her poems have been carefully collected but are wonderfully various. Themes, characters and voices come and go as the poet moves in and out of identities and roles – sometimes known, sometimes incognito – discovering new world views, new horizons, whole new windows of observations.

Incognito is crammed with people recognised and specific. Children are here, telling stories, drawing pictures. A mother fishing, a father’s death, a childhood car trip crammed with memories, the arrival of a new baby. A brown hen named Dorothy-Mae pecks from lunch plates, a group of friends huddles around a winter’s night bonfire. But Jessica Le Bas is also openly lyrical about the New Zealand landscape and its human clutter and writes hills and wind, sheds and roads, headlands and valleys.

Incognito is an intensely New Zealand book, not least in its journey outward in the final sections – to Malindi, Shenandoah, Zagreb – and its affectionate return home.



Jessica Le Bas won the New Zealand Poetry Society’s International Poetry Competition (2003) and the 2005 Bravado Poetry Competition for her poem ‘Walking to Africa’, and received a New Zealand Mental Health Foundation Media Grant in 2007 to write the book of Walking to Africa (2009). Le Bas has been a teacher, private secretary to a government Minister in the Beehive, worked for the United Nations during the Balkan War as a training consultant and is currently writes fulltime in Nelson, New Zealand.


Winner of NZSA Jessie Mackay Award for Best First Book of Poetry 2008.


May 2007, 225 x 165 mm, 80 pages
Paperback, ISBN 9781869403928, $24.99