Auckland Writers and Their Region (2)

[Auckland Trams (1950s)]

Massey University:

Lecture 2:

Big Smoke

Anthology texts to read:


  1. Baxter
  2. Tuwhare
  3. Smithyman
  4. Stanley

from The Life of James K. Baxter

… On Saturday morning, 21 October, Baxter went over to Jean Tuwhare’s place, 21 Tiri Tiri Rd in Birkdale, and asked if he could stay for a few days. In the afternoon he helped in the garden, hoeing out onion weed with a mattock. Next morning, he complained of pains in his stomach and chest so she rang her doctor for him. Since it was Labour weekend, they knew it would be difficult to get an appointment. The doctor, who knew Baxter’s poetry, said he would open the surgery especially for him at 7.30 p.m. In the meantime, they decided to go to a sauna in Takapuna with a Maori woman who was a friend of Jean’s. Baxter was unusually quiet in the sauna, but when Jean’s friend asked why he had left his wife, Baxter replied that, though he loved Jacquie and wanted to be buried with her, he believed his creative gifts required the freedom to move around. On the way back from the sauna they stopped to get some tablets at the chemist because they thought the stomach pains might be ulcers. They were clutching at straws. Baxter had known for some time that he had a bad heart.

That Sunday night, Jean Tuwhare drove him to the surgery in Glenfield Road. As they came to the top of the rise in Eskdale Street, Baxter’s last glimpse of the sea he had so often celebrated was across the Waitemata to Rangitoto. As they turned into Glenfield Road he was cracking jokes. Jean left him at the surgery, a little white house set back from the road, believing that Baxter and the doctor would talk for some time. She planned to come and get him when he rang. The doctor wanted to arrange a thorough check up, but Baxter said he was too busy. And since there did not appear to be any immediate danger, the doctor responded to another call. He had hardly gone when Baxter had a violent heart attack outside the surgery. He managed to cross the road and knock on the door of No. 544 Glenfield Road. The people who lived there at that time were at first reluctant to admit this wild-eyed, shaggy stranger. When they did, he asked them to ring Jean Tuwhare and she came at once. Then they rang another doctor, who thought it better to wait for the return of the doctor who had just examined Baxter. He also said the call was outside his area. In considerable pain, Baxter was lying on a sofa in the lounge at the back of the house. Jean remembered his saying ‘I have a wife and children in Wellington.’ When the doctor who had originally examined him returned, he applied heart massage, but to no avail. The man who said that if New Zealand society was as it should be, there would be a welcome at every door, died in the house of a stranger. It was the night of 22 October 1972. He was forty-six.

- Frank McKay

[Photograph: NZ Book Council]

James K. Baxter


James K. Baxter was born in Dunedin, the son of pioneering pacifist Archibald Baxter, author of We Will Not Cease (1939), and Millicent Brown, daughter of Professor John Macmillan Brown. These two sides of his personality, the idealist and the intellectual, warred in him for the rest of his life.

His first book of poems, Beyond the Palisade, was published in 1944, and he was immediately hailed as a wunderkind. From then until his death in 1972 there was never a moment when he was not at the forefront of New Zealand literary life – in Christchurch in the late 40s, in Wellington in the 50s, and (most famously) as a commune organizer at Jerusalem on the Whanganui River in the late 60s and early 70s. Out of this came his most famous (and arguably his finest) book, the Jerusalem Sonnets (1970).

As a critic, dramatist, social commentator, Baxter published widely, but his monument remains that amazing profusion of poems, which continue to address issues of race, class, and spirituality of vital concern to all New Zealanders.

His Collected Poems appeared in 1980, followed by Collected Plays in 1982. His critical prose has been assembled in James K. Baxter as Critic (1978).

Selected Bibliography


  • Beyond the Palisade. Christchurch: Caxton Press, 1944.
  • Blow, Wind of Fruitfulness. Christchurch: Caxton Press, 1948.
  • The Fallen House. Christchurch: Caxton Press, 1953.
  • In Fires of No Return. London: Oxford University Press, 1958.
  • Howrah Bridge and Other Poems. London: Oxford University Press, 1961.
  • Pig Island Letters. London: Oxford University Press, 1966.
  • The Rock Woman: Selected Poems. London: Oxford University Press, 1969.
  • Jerusalem Sonnets. Dunedin: Bibliography Room, University of Otago, 1970.
  • Jerusalem Daybook. Wellington: Price Milburn, 1971.
  • Autumn Testament. Wellington: Price Milburn, 1972.
  • Runes. London: Oxford University Press, 1973.
  • The Labyrinth: Some Uncollected Poems 1944-1972. London: Oxford University Press, 1974.
  • The Tree House and Other Poems for Children. Wellington: Price Milburn, 1974.
  • The Bone Chanter: Unpublished Poems 1945-1972. Edited by J. E. Weir. Wellington: Oxford University Press, 1976.
  • The Holy Life and Death of Concrete Grady: Various Uncollected and Unpublished Poems. Edited by J. E. Weir. Wellington: Oxford University Press, 1976.
  • Collected Poems. Edited by J. E. Weir. Wellington: Oxford University Press, 1980.
  • Selected Poems. Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1982.
  • The Essential Baxter. Edited by J. E. Weir. Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1993.
  • Cold Spring: Baxter's Unpublished Early Collection. Edited by Paul Millar. Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1996.
  • Selected Poems of James K. Baxter. Edited by Paul Millar. Manchester: Carcanet Press Ltd., 2010 / Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2010.


  • Collected Plays. Auckland; New York: Oxford University Press, 1982.


  • James K. Baxter as Critic: a Selection from his Literary Criticism. Edited by Frank McKay. Auckland: Heinemann Educational Books, 1978.
  • Horse. New Zealand Classic. Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1985.


  • Yates, Charlotte, ed. Baxter: Poems by James K. Baxter set to the music of twelve selected NZ recording artists. CD. NZ: Universal Music Ltd., 2000.


  • Oliver, W. James K. Baxter: A Portrait. Wellington: Port Nicholson Press, 1983.
  • McKay, Frank. The Life of James K. Baxter. Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1990.
  • Spark to a Waiting Fuse: James K. Baxter's correspondence with Noel Ginn, 1942-46. Edited by Paul Millar. Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2001.
  • Newton, John. The Double Rainbow: James K. Baxter, Ngāti Hau and the Jerusalem Commune. Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2009.


from No Ordinary Sun
Tree let your naked arms fall
nor extend vain entreaties to the radiant ball.
This is no gallant monsoon’s flash,
no dashing trade wind’s blast.
The fading green of your magic
emanations shall not make pure again
these polluted skies . . . for this
is no ordinary sun.

- Hone Tuwhare

[Photograph: Meg Davidson]

Hone Tuwhare


Hone Tuwhare was born at Kokewai, near Kaikohe, in 1922, of Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Korokoro, Tautahi, Uri O Hau and Te Popoto descent. When he was four, he moved with his parents to Auckland, where he attended primary school – financial constraints meant that he was unable to go any further in the education system. After leaving school, he took a boilermaking apprenticeship with New Zealand Railways; after receiving his trade certificate, he served with the Japan Section of the 2nd N.Z.E.F. in 1946-1947, worked on North Island hydroelectric schemes, and became a union organizer.

He began writing seriously in 1956, and had his first poems published soon after; one in Landfall in 1958. Tuwhare’s first collection of poetry, No Ordinary Sun, was published in 1964; it has subsequently gone through four editions, and is still in print.

After receiving a Burns Fellowship in 1969, Tuwhare moved to Dunedin, becoming involved with the local arts and writing communities. In 1973, he was instrumental in organizing the first Maori Artists and Writers Conference, and later that year he visited the People’s Republic of China, meeting Rewi Alley.

In 1974, after a period spent working in the Pacific, he received a second Burns Fellowship, and, the following year, participated in the New Zealand Land March. The latter experience led to the writing of his first play, In the Wilderness Without a Hat.

He was a member of the Four New Zealand Poets tours of 1975 and 1979, and continued to perform in front of South Island audiences throughout the late 1970s and 1980s. In 1998, he was awarded an honorary D.Phil. by the University of Otago. He was named poet laureate in 1999, and, in 2002, his collection Piggy-Back Moon was shortlisted for the New Zealand Book Awards. In 2003, he received the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement (poetry). He died in 2008.

Selected Bibliography


  • No Ordinary Sun. Auckland: Blackwood and Janet Paul, 1964.
  • Come Rain Hail: Poems. Dunedin: Bibliography Room, University of Otago, 1970.
  • Sap-wood and Milk: Poems. Dunedin: Caveman Press, 1972.
  • Something Nothing: Poems. Dunedin: Caveman Press, 1974.
  • Making a Fist of It: Poems and Short Stories. Dunedin: Jackstraw Press, 1978.
  • Selected Poems. Dunedin: John McIndoe, 1980.
  • Year of the Dog: Poems New and Selected. Dunedin: John McIndoe, 1982.
  • Mihi: Collected Poems. Auckland: Penguin, 1987.
  • Short Back & Sideways: Poems and Prose. Auckland: Godwit, 1992.
  • Deep River Talk: Collected Poems. Auckland: Godwit, 1993.
  • Shape-shifter. Wellington: Steele Roberts, 1997.
  • Piggy-Back Moon. Te Mata Poet Laureate Volume 2. Auckland: Godwit, 2001.
  • Oooooo......!!! Wellington: Steele Roberts, 2005.


  • In the Wilderness Without a Hat. In He Reo Hou: 5 Plays by Maori Playwrights. Wellington: Playmarket, 1991.


  • Yates, Charlotte, ed. Tuwhare: Poems by Hone Tuwhare set to music by recording artists from NZ/Aotearoa. CD. NZ: Universal Music Ltd., 2004.


  • Hunt, Janet. Hone Tuwhare: A Biography. Auckland: Godwit, 1998.


Herald Island Wharf

Workshop 2:
Gathering the Toheroa

Anthology texts to read:

from Colville

That sort of place where you stop
long enough to fill the tank, buy plums,
perhaps, and an icecream thing on a stick
while somebody local comes
in, leans on the counter, takes a good look
but does not like what he sees of you ...

- Kendrick Smithyman

Waipu Caves (Northland)

from Blind Date at the Glow Worm Caves

Perhaps it’s midday highlight
brings them out. At ten cents a time
they take turns with viewfinders
looking the district over away out to sea.
Islands are hazy. Who will define, how?
Tell me frankly,


what part am I
not playing? And you ...

- Kendrick Smithyman

[Photograph: Robert Cross]

Kendrick Smithyman


William Kendrick Smithyman was born in Te Kopuru, a small town on the Wairoa River, on the 9th October, 1922. The family moved to Auckland in 1931. There Kendrick attended Seddon Memorial Technical College and Auckland Teachers College.

During the war he was in the Artillery, and (later) in the NZ Air Force. In 1944 he was posted to Norfolk Island, where he began the sequence “Considerations of Norfolk Island” (some of which was included in the 1951 edition of Allen Curnow’s Book of NZ Verse).

From 1944 onwards he began to contribute regularly to literary periodicals in New Zealand and Australia, as well as (occasionally) the UK and USA. He published a small chapbook, Seven Sonnets, in 1946, and his first full-length book of poems, The Blind Mountain, in 1950.

He worked as a Primary and Intermediate School teacher from 1946 to 1963, when he was appointed to a tutoring job in the English Department of Auckland University. He retired in 1987.

In 1946 he married the poet Mary Stanley. They had three sons: Christopher, Stephen and Gerard. After her death in 1980, he married fellow English Department Tutor Margaret Edgcumbe.

One of New Zealand’s most prolific poets, he published 13 books of poems during his lifetime, including Stories about Wooden Keyboards, which won the New Zealand Book Award for poetry in 1986. He also wrote a pioneering study of New Zealand poetry, A Way of Saying (1965).

In 1986 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Auckland, and in 1990 an OBE. He died in 1995. Some of his most impressive work has appeared posthumously, including the epic Atua Wera (1997) and the set of family poems Imperial Vistas Family Fictions (2002).

Selected Bibliography


  • Seven Sonnets. Auckland: Pelorus Press, 1946.
  • The Blind Mountain and Other Poems. Christchurch: Caxton Press, 1950.
  • The Gay Trapeze. Poems in Pamphlet 4. Wellington: Handcraft Press, 1955.
  • [with James K. Baxter, Charles Doyle, and Louis Johnson]. The Night Shift: Poems on Aspects of Love. Wellington: Capricorn Press, 1957.
  • Inheritance. Hamilton & Auckland: Paul’s Book Arcade, 1962.
  • Flying to Palmerston. Christchurch: Auckland / Oxford University Press, 1968.
  • Earthquake Weather. Auckland: Auckland / Oxford University Press, 1972.
  • The Seal in the Dolphin Pool. Auckland: Auckland / Oxford University Press, 1974.
  • Dwarf with a Billiard Cue. Auckland: Auckland / Oxford University Press, 1978.
  • Stories About Wooden Keyboards. Auckland: Auckland / Oxford University Press, 1985.
  • Are You Going to the Pictures? Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1987.
  • Selected Poems. Edited by Peter Simpson. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1989.
  • Auto/Biographies. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1992.
  • Tomarata. Afterword by Peter Simpson. Tamaki: Holloway Press, 1996.
  • Atua Wera. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1997.
  • Last Poems. Edited by Peter Simpson. Auckland: Holloway Press, 2002.
  • Imperial Vistas Family Fictions. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2002.
  • Campana to Montale: Versions from Italian. Edited by Jack Ross. Auckland: The Writers Group, 2004.
  • Private Bestiary: Selected Unpublished Poems, 1944-1993. Edited by Scott Hamilton. Auckland: Titus Books, 2010.
  • Campana to Montale: Versions from Italian. 2004. Edited by Jack Ross & Marco Sonzogni. Transference Series. Novi Ligure: Edizioni Joker, 2010.


  • A Way of Saying: A Study of New Zealand Poetry. Auckland & London: Collins, 1965.


  • Satchell, William. The Land of the Lost. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1971.
  • [with C.K. Stead & Elizabeth Smither]. The New Gramophone Room: Poetry & Fiction. Auckland: Department of English, University of Auckland, 1985.
  • Satchell, William. The Toll of the Bush. Auckland: Auckland / Oxford University Press, 1985.
  • Texidor, Greville. In Fifteen Minutes You Can Say a Lot: Selected Fiction. Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1987.


Clifton Firth: Mary Stanley (c.1946)

from Put Off Constricting Day

Husband, put down Spinoza, Pericles,
the seventeenth century, even the new
nemesis striding after doll or moll.
Private eye or dick, they’ll crack the case
as wide as any yawn I’ll give, waiting
for bed and casual goodnight.

- Mary Stanley

[Photograph: nzepc]

Mary Stanley


Mary Stanley left few papers. For some of the poems no worksheets or typed scripts survive, only what is in print. A few pieces remain, not ready for publication. Whatever she did before 1946, little of which exists now, she wrote sparingly from that time.

She was encouraged over the years by women friends, some themselves writing – when young, Barbara Dent and Ruth Gilbert were two of them – or active in other arts, as Una Platts and Molly Macalister were. It has been said that men dismissed what she did and this effectively silenced her, but men as different as A.R.D. Fairburn, M.K. Joseph, Robert Lowry, Frank Sargeson, Maurice Duggan, James K. Baxter, Robert Thompson and especially Louis Johnson treated her respectfully and gave her no reason to think they disparaged her poems. She submitted only once to Landfall, in its early days, and was rejected, although Charles Brasch asked more from her year by year, invariably cordial and enquiring on paper or in person, and when her book was coming out went to some trouble to find a sympathetic reviewer.

Mary Stanley suffered a major hurt with the death of her first husband in 1944, to which "Record Perpetual Loss" refers. She married again in 1946. The first of her three sons was born in 1947. Twelve months later rheumatoid arthritis was apparent. This continued for the rest of her life, at times easing only to return again with increasing complication and severity. She had an extraordinarily powerful will to resist the decline of her body which was ultimately so horrifying, and an unpredictable ingenuity in contriving to get around the handicaps which should have prevented her from gardening as long as she did or kept her from the piano when common sense protested that she could not do what demonstrably she was doing. She returned to primary school teaching, working particularly with remedial cases and with school music, fortunate in the principals, colleagues and school inspectors who sought as long as they could to keep her in the service, notably at Forrest Hill School, next door to Maurice Duggan’s home.

As well as succeeding with children in making music Mary Stanley had the knack of getting them to write although she could not do so for herself.

Selected Bibliography


  • Stanley, Mary. Starveling Year: Poems. Pegasus New Zealand Poets. Christchurch: The Pegasus Press, 1953.
  • Stanley, Mary. Starveling Year and Other Poems. 1953. Ed. Kendrick Smithyman. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1994.


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