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Twelve of the attending fellows live in Dunedin, about 20 are coming from elsewhere in the country, and the 2002 Burns Fellow, poet and fiction writer Alison Wong, is arriving from Sydney.
Associate Prof Jacob Edmond and Dr Karen McLean, both of the Otago department of English and linguistics, are co-organisers.
Since Ian Cross was the first fellow in 1959, Dunedin itself, the university, and the respective fellows had all benefited from the Burns Fellowship, Dr McLean said.
The fellows had produced poetry and other writings in ''a huge variety of genres and modes'', including stage and television plays, she said.
The fellowships had provided valuable ''new blood'', but Dunedin itself had also contributed strongly, because ''there's something in the water that encourages creative work and creative networks'', she said.
A series of associated public events were supported by the university and its many partners, who include the Dunedin Readers and Writers Festival, the Dunedin Public Art Gallery Society, the Dunedin City of Literature, the University Bookshop, and the university's Hocken Library.
The anniversary-related events start on Thursday, when Burns Fellows contribute to workshop sessions for young writers, and Cilla McQueen's new book, Poeta: Selected and new poetry, is launched.
The Dunedin Public Art Gallery will run four public events on Saturday.
On Sunday there will be an open home at the Robert Lord Writers Cottage, at 3 Titan St, and a celebration of the Stations of the Cross, painted by artist and poet Joanna Margaret Paul, at the Church of St Mary, Star of the Sea, in Magnet St, Port Chalmers.