Moving on from poetry for Valentine’s Day one poet absent from the list compiled by Paula Green was Hone Tuwhare. Perhaps his poetry lacked romanticism but Tuwhare is recognised as New Zealand’s most distinguished Māori poet writing in English.
Tuwhare was a working man turned poet. He was trained as a boilermaker and worked with the New Zealand Railways based in Otahuhu, Auckland. It was there he met fellow poet R. A. K Mason who encouraged him to submit his poems for publication. His first anthology was “No ordinary sun” (1964) and was the first collection of poems written in English by a Maori writer. It sold out within two weeks and has been reprinted many times since.
Hone Tuwhare was a unionist and believed in social justice. He wrote plays and short stories, but it ishis poetry which he is most remembered for. Radio New Zealand collection on poets and poetry has this collection of tributes, interviews and poems.
He received many awards for his work. Tuwhare was New Zealand’s second poet laureate, from 1999 to 2001. The Arts Foundation named him one of 10 living icons of the New Zealand arts in 2003, the same year that he, Michael King and Janet Frame received inaugural Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement.
The Te Ara (Encyclopedia of New Zealand) entry provides a comprehensive study of his life and achievements. The article describes him as “one of New Zealand’s best-known and best-loved writers, who stood at the intersection of two cultures, Māori and Pākehā. Tuwhare, the writer, was admired for his honesty of expression. He powerfully dramatised his poems, bringing them to life for thousands who heard him read, in schools and community halls, art galleries, literary festivals, pubs and lecture theatres over the course of a career spanning nearly 50 years.”
Tuwhare inspired many New Zealand writers and had a special place in many hearts. In 2002, poet Glenn Colquhoun persuaded Tuwhare to make a special tour of Northland. During this tour, a documentary was made and New Zealand Onscreen has links to other documentaries and programmes which are about Hone Tuwhare.
Jon Battista wrote this obituary for Hone Tuwhare in September 2008 for Ka mate Ka Ora, a New Zealand Journal of poetry and poets. He includes many poems for you to read and has created a wonderfully scholarly tribute to one of New Zealand’s greatest taonga (treasures).
Amanda Bond is a New Zealand ex-pat currently working as Teacher Librarian in an international school in Istanbul, Turkey. Her twitter handle is @kiwionthego