Stephen Oliver was born in Wellington, New Zealand and grew up in Brooklyn-West. He was educated at Marist Brothers, Newtown and St Patrick's College, Cambridge Terrace. He subsequently completed a one year diploma course in magazine journalism at Wellington Polytechnic and studied at Radio NZ Broadcasting School.
He has lived in Paris, Vienna, London, San Francisco, and in Greece and Israel, where he signed on with the radio ship, The Voice of Peace, broadcasting in the Mediterranean out of Jaffa. He has worked throughout New Zealand and Australia as a production voice, newsreader, announcer, journalist, copy and features writer, usually in a freelance capacity. Oliver crossed the Tasman to settle in Newtown, Sydney in 1986 and stayed seven years before spending several years in Melbourne. Oliver has since lived in Sydney again. He returned to New Zealand in 2007.
His work is widely represented in New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, the United States, the United Kingdom, South Africa and Canada. Stephen Oliver has described himself as a Trans-Tasman poet and has attended, as guest writer, Subverse : Queensland Poetry Festival, 2000 and the Tasmanian Poetry Festival, 2001. His volume Intercolonial, a book-length narrative poem, was begun in Sydney in the mid-90s and finally completed in NZ.
He participated at a variety of 'poets against the war' venues in the United States and the United Kingdom in 2003. Oliver has made a number of recordings of his poetry readings and a 35 mm film short based on the poem 'Something in the Air' read by the author to a musical score by Bob Jackson, jazz musician, and directed by Allan McGillivray (1986).
His poems have appeard in numerous international print and online journals over the years, including creative non-fiction and poems in Antipodes, Asian Journal of Literature, Culture and Society, Contrappasso (Australia), Cordite (Australia), Landfall (NZ), London Grip (UK), Plumwood Mountain (Australia), The Innisfree Poetry Journal 20 (Ireland), Southerly (Australia), and 3Quarks Daily (USA).
His poems have been translated into German, Spanish, Chinese, and Russian. His poem cycle Deadly Pollen (Word Riot Press, USA, 2003) was recently translated in its entirely (Polen Mortal) by the Chilean poet, Sergio Badilla Castillo, in collaboration with Roger Hickin of Cold Hub Press (NZ), and first published in Nagari (Vol 7 2015).