Michele Leggott

posted by Michele
work for the living

one by one they come out
the piece of paper with the poem transcribed
at five in the morning and folded
into the driver’s pocket
another with the words of the song
the Yorkshireman doesn’t need
he’s brought cucumbers from his garden
she found puriri around the corner
I’m looking up the Latin for big flower
or maybe really big flower
and pulling it from the tree

too many funerals but the road
is clear to the north      the driver
puts his foot down
the words in his pocket speed
the conversation the weave of
bad singing bad hearing bad eyes
stopping only for a bad joke
across the road from the Hundertwasser
toilets      they call me mellow yellow
the tourist train rolls up the main street
someone takes a picture on a phone
stories flash by     Ruapekapeka Ohaeawai
Culloden the Spanish Armada
the wars the families deaths and clearances

at Te Kotahitanga we find him
whose words have brought us
to the north     wheear 'ast ta bin sin'
ah saw thee     he asks silently
did you clean up the shattered teacup
the milk spilling onto the floor?
the Lake Poet walks in trailing clouds
the Persian Ecstatic takes a spin
around the room and King James
does benison in both languages
body and soul     light and air
puriri grieves and the Really Big Flower
opens its lemon soap heart     Ephphatha!
the birds in the trees are suddenly uproarious
and then we hear rain outside

it’s gone by the time
we emerge and the van has him
safely on the road to Wharepaepae
we are slower getting up there
the carter on the horizon calls out
in the arms of the road     a translation
anyone might understand
replying to the voice in the wind
as the old lady opens her arms
and takes him into the earth

lost children
and talk that goes on into the night
around a table in a house on another hilltop
where an old friend pulls out the first book
and inside it another piece of paper
with a handwritten poem she reads
remembering where it came from
taking the path between that coast
and the travellers she is feeding tonight
the cucumbers went into the salad
more books more history more wine
the driver’s poem is unfolded
as a full moon gets up over the valley
A red libation to your good memory, friend.
There’s work yet, for the living.
in the morning a bird will call from the trees
visible invisible     riro she explains
to the man without a hat who knows
the song but can’t sing it now
to save his life     riro riro little stranger
the wars the deaths the clearances
one who intrudes into my shadow
I don’t recognise shadows     his face
a translation anyone might understand

John Buck, 21 January 2008

posted by Michele

The thing to remember about Hone is that he grew up first on the King James Bible and then on Shakespeare. So he heard that magnificent poetic language over and under and around his own ways into Polynesian storytelling and Polynesian song. He took the animism of the Maori world – everything in it is alive and has a voice – and he wrote that world, those voices, hearing as he went the echo and cadences of the classic English tradition. His poems sound so good, they’re wonderful to hear out loud, and not just because Hone was a wonderful reader of his own work. A poem like ‘Rain’ will still be around when we’ve forgotten almost everything else. It goes straight in, it’s everyone’s poem to learn and remember. My children’s children will be taught ‘Rain’ and I think Hone knew that. He knew very well what his poems could do: But if I / should not hear / smell or feel or see / you // you would still / define me / disperse me / wash over me / rain.

Lauris Edmond

posted by Michele

Lauris Edmond, from Late Song (Auckland University Press, 2000).

Afternoon at Akatarawa
for Frances and Hone

It was there, a silence within the wind, brushing
lightly across that dedicated hillside
holding its dead in its arms, each one’s
eternity contained in the long sleep of the earth.

It was a colour – or no colour – in the quiet sky
as we three knelt or sat on the grass looking down,
my hand on the carved stone of her name,
her years written there in brief relentless strokes;

it was our tears, our shared remembering,
our close-leaning bodies; it touched our skin
with the wind, held us close in our stillness.
It was – a mysterious knowing beyond knowledge;

or perhaps the earth itself, where we will all
one day lie with her, the voice of its silence.
Then we stood up, heads bent, and meandered
over the grass. But – there was one thing more –

he broke, turned, breathed hard, his great voice
suddenly filling that cathedral of hills with
a muscular shouting, strange harsh music as though
coming from some deep place beyond even himself.

He ended. We walked to the car. Miles down the road
in the silence we drew round us, each peering
inwards to see what we could of her long-ago face,
he told us: ‘A salute. For a chief only. For her.’

Murray Edmond

posted by Michele

Everyday Life on Mount Forehead (excerpt)


Yuri signed her name with her stamp
the two characters – KINU (silk) and GAWA (river) –
in red inside a circle of red ink


what an exotic beautiful name I wanted to exclaim
until I stopped to listen to my own language
and heard such names as SILKSTONE or BRIDGEWATER
for what they are which is to say what they might be



ostranenie of course Shklovsky called it



to hear then stop and listen and to hear again


on the TV news at 6pm last

night ‘breaking news’ of Hone Tuwhare’s death



TU to stand to stop to remain

WHARE house

hear the name again


and what stands inside the name


in ’77 in Sid (Hirirni) Melbourne’s reo class we
were set the composition
‘Taku whare tu mokemoke’
to speak with the voice of the carved house in the
National Museum



the house is not a house without the people

it does not stand

in 1966 (or was it five

Scott and I went to hear him read almost all of
No Ordinary Sun cigarette after cigarette poem after
poem in the new Teachers College/University lecture theatre
in Hillcrest (the college just moved from Melville
(the university just a little more than an idea


before each poem he apologised for the poem we were
about to hear


funny funny funny old man funny




only one friend

went to Waikato
(the rest of us thought we wanted to drop
dead rather than stay in Hamilton

not from choice but
with mother dying and father in prison it was
all she could afford


good to hear now she teaches at

The New School in New York


Best not to leave a mark

behind for good or ill


in her big old Holden she drove me
round the lake    under the stars under that tree:


the girl in the park

did not reach up to touch

the cold steel buttons



hear again
here again


biking across Hamilton for poetry’s sake






NZ flag at half mast as Pat Hohepa finishes his
speech, a young man scurries into the house
to announce: ‘They read a Tuwhare poem at Sir Ed’s funeral –
I heard it on the radio’


but most locals here haven’t read any

Tuwhare poem


careful he might write another one with that blue ballpoint
in his left hand


the Wharepaepae urupa is hidden from view

across a paddock where the cars are parked, down a track
then up to the top of a small steep hill


from there you can

look out north south east west / as far as the eye
a fine place to rest
there’s/work yet, for the living


stopped by the cops for goin’ too slow
just want to get there as late as I can
whoa whoa whoa

red light in my head

blue light in my eyes


long green stick insect waves in the air sitting on
the rimu like a Bill Hammond bird

huhu bug

blunders in to join the drinkers
a fool moon

and a mist at dawn


the land breathes out long and slow

Brian Turner, 20 January 2008

posted by Michele

I always found Hone engaging, amusing and good company. He was regularly generous and sincerely didn't have much time for pomp and ceremony – he had a wicked sense of humour and enjoyed taking the piss out of others. He could also see aspects of absurdity in himself and was brilliant at playing to a crowd. Then he'd say something quietly, give you a wink; he knew he could do a great con job if he wanted to. Occasionally he did. The more irreverent he was the more reverent his audience became. Hone knew he was onto a good thing there. He was a very very good reader of his own work, one of the best.

I'll miss the old bugger. He helped make people believe that all poets weren't rarefied, could be warm and human – in the best sense of the word – and I'm grateful to him for that.

16 January 2008: Death of Hone Tuwhare

posted by Michele
Hone Tuwhare (1922-2008) was the second Te Mata Poet Laureate. He was appointed in 1999, received his carved tokotoko from PM Helen Clark and published Piggyback Moon, his laureate collection, in 2001. Hone’s tokotoko is now held at the Eastern Southland Museum.

Three classic poems by Hone Tuwhare - Hone Tuwhare website

Publications and reviews list - University of Auckland Library website

'Friend', published in Te Ao Hou (1964)

Three poems published in Te Ao Hou (1959) (scroll down a little on the page to see)

Feature on Tuwhare in Te Ao Hou (1964) A selection of early work from the digitised journal Te Ao Hou.

Fifteen Minutes in the Life of Johannes H. Jean Ivanovich A poem about laundry day at Kaka Point, Hone-style. Published in Shape-Shifter (1997) and reprinted in Whetu Moana: Contemporary Polynesian Poems in English (2003).

LP Blues Debra Smith’s photograph documenting Hone Tuwhares contribution to Poetry on the Pavement in the Auckland CBD, February 2005.

Biography and publications NZ Book Council Writer Files Images (from the International Institute of Modern Letters website)
Top: Prime Minister Helen Clark and Hone Tuwhare
Bottom: Hone's tokotoko

Post about Tuwhare on the National Library's 'Create Readers' blog

Information and links on the Christchurch City Libraries site

The New Zealand Poet Laureate Award

Poetry is an essential part of New Zealand culture, with a proud and vibrant history. In May 2007 the government announced the New Zealand Poet Laureate award to be established and administered by the National Library of New Zealand. This award replaced the Poet Laureate Award created by Te Mata Estate in 1996. Te Mata Estate remains involved in the new award in a supporting role.

The title of New Zealand Poet Laureate is awarded to an accomplished and highly regarded poet who has made an outstanding contribution to New Zealand poetry. In this highly public role, the first Poet Laureate must be able to communicate a passion for poetry, be a strong advocate for poetry and have an interest in digital publication.

Auckland poet Michele Leggott was announced as the inaugural Poet Laureate under the new award in December 2007. The Poet Laureate is selected biennially and receives an award of $50,000 per year. The Poet Laureate is also presented with a tokotoko (a carved walking stick) for ceremonial use as well as a stipend of Te Mata wine. The Laureate is selected by the National Librarian/Chief Executive of the National Library after a nomination process.

As part of the new award, items such as the Poet Laureate’s drafts, creative processes (including video interviews, podcasts, readings, and online publications) and published work will be preserved in the National Library’s National Digital Heritage Archive and in the collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library.

History of the Poet Laureate award

Te Mata Estate winery established the New Zealand Poet Laureate award in 1996, its centenary year. The award recognised outstanding contributions to New Zealand poetry.

Each poet was appointed for two years and received a grant from Te Mata Estate, together with an individual tokotoko symbolising their achievement and status.

Past Te Mata New Zealand Poet Laureates

2005-2006 Jenny Bornholdt

Bio from the Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature

Publications, bio, gallery and online works

Collection of poems and images

2003-2004 Brian Turner

Bio from the Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature

Featured poems at New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre website

Collection of poems and images

2001-2002 Elizabeth Smither

Bio from the Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature

Publications, bio, gallery and online works

Collection of poems and images

1999-2000 Hone Tuwhare

Bio from the Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature

Featured poems at New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre

Short bio and poem

1997-1998 Bill Manhire

Bio from the Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature

Publications, bio, gallery and online works

Collection of poems and images