Friday, 10 August 2012

Hone Tuwhare (1922 - 2008)

Yesterday, (16th January, 2008), Hone Tuwhare, one of New Zealand's most distinguished Maori poets, playwright, and writer of short fiction died in his sleep. He was 85 years old.

Hone Tuwhare was born in Kaikohe in 1922, into the Nga Puhi tribe (hapu Ngati Korokoro, Ngati Tautahi, Te Popoto, Uri-o-hau). His first published collection, No Ordinary Sun, appeared in 1964 to widespread acclaim and was reprinted ten times during the next thirty years—one of the most widely read individual collections of poems in New Zealand history. Throughout his lifetime, he was actively involved in Maori cultural and political initiatives.

His work has been described thus:

"When Tuwhare’s poems first began to appear in the late 1950s and early 1960s they were recognised as a new departure in New Zealand poetry, cutting across the debates and divisions between the 1930s and post-war generations. Much of their originality came from the Maori perspective. This was not simply a question of the subject matter of some poems (‘Lament’, a reworking of an older *waiata tangi, ‘Tangi’ and ‘Mauri’), but of their direct lyrical response to landscape and seascape, their vivid evocation of Maori myths and images (‘A burnt offering to your greenstone eyes, Tangaroa’), and their capacity for angry protest at the dispossession of Maori land and culture (‘The mana of my house has fled, / the marae is but a paddock of thistle’). The poems were also marked by their tonal variety, the naturalness with which they could move between formal and informal registers, between humour and pathos, intimacy and controlled anger (as in the anti-nuclear theme of the title-poem of the first volume, ‘No Ordinary Sun’) and, especially, in their assumption of easy vernacular familiarity with New Zealand readers."

Below, are two of his poems:

Toroa ~ Albatross

Day and night endlessly you have flown effortless of wing
over chest-expanding oceans far from land.
Do you switch on an automatic pilot, close your eyes
in sleep, Toroa?

On your way to your homeground at Otakou Heads
you tried to rest briefly on the Wai-te-mata
but were shot at by ignorant people. Crippled.
You found a resting place at Whanga-nui-a-Tara;
found space at last to recompose yourself.

Now, without skin and flesh to hold you together
the division of your aerodynamic parts lies whitening,
licked clean by sun and air and water. Children will
discover narrow corridors of airiness between,
the suddenness of bulk. Naked, laugh in the gush
and ripple — the play of light on water.

You are not alone, Toroa. A taniwha once tried
to break out of the harbour for the open sea. He failed.
He is lonely. From the top of the mountain nearby he
calls to you: Haeremai, haeremai, welcome home, traveller.

Your head tilts, your eyes open to the world.

To a Mäori figure cast in bronze outside the Chief Post Office, Auckland

I hate being stuck up here, glaciated, hard all over
and with my guts removed: my old lady is not going
to like it

I’ve seen more efficient scarecrows in seedbed
nurseries. Hell, I can’t even shoo the pigeons off

Me: all hollow inside with longing for the marae on
the cliff at Kohimarama, where you can watch the ships
come in curling their white moustaches

Why didn’t they stick me next to Mickey Savage?
‘Now then,’ he was a good bloke
Maybe it was a Tory City Council that put me here

They never consulted me about naming the square
It’s a wonder they never called it: Hori-in-gorge-atbottom-
of-hill. Because it is like that: a gorge,
with the sun blocked out, the wind whistling around
your balls (your balls mate) And at night, how I
feel for the beatle-girls with their long-haired
boyfriends licking their frozen finger-chippy lips
hopefully. And me again beetling

my tent eyebrows forever, like a brass monkey with
real worries: I mean, how the hell can you welcome
the Overseas Dollar, if you can’t open your mouth
to poke your tongue out, eh?

If I could only move from this bloody pedestal I’d
show the long-hairs how to knock out a tune on the
souped-up guitar, my mere quivering, my taiaha held
at the high port. And I’d fix the ripe kotiro too
with their mini-piupiu-ed bums twinkling: yeah!

 Somebody give me a drink: I can’t stand it

No comments:

Post a Comment