Puna Wai Korero: An Anthology of Maori Poetry in English

Puna Wai Korero: An Anthology of Maori Poetry in English

by Reina Whaitiri, Robert Sullivan


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From revered, established writers as well as exciting new voices, the poems in Puna Wai Korero offer a broad picture of Maori poetry in English. The voices are many and diverse: confident, angry, traditional, respectful, experimental, despairing, and full of hope, expressing a range of poetic techniques and the full scope of what it is to be Maori. There are poems from all walks of life and modes of writing: laments for koro and hopes for mokopuna, celebrations of the land and anger at its abuse, retellings of myth and reclamations of history. Puna Wai Korero collects work from the many iwi and hapu of Aotearoa as well as Maori living in Australia and around the world, featuring the work of Hone Tuwhare, J. C. Sturm, Trixie Te Arama Menzies, Keri Hulme, Apirana Taylor, Roma Potiki, Hinemoana Baker, Tracey Tawhiao and others – as well as writers better known for forms other than poetry such as Witi Ihimaera, Paula Morris, and Ngahuia Te Awekotuku.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781869408176
Publisher: Auckland University Press
Publication date: 03/01/2015
Pages: 420
Product dimensions: 6.70(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Reina Whaitiri is of Maori and Pakeha descent, and is a teacher, researcher, and editor of Maori, Pacific and indigenous literature. She taught English literature at the Universities of Auckland and Hawai‘i, and coordinated the former’s Tertiary Education Foundation Programme. She has coedited three anthologies, Homeland: New Writing from America, the Pacific, and Asia, Mauri Ola, and Whetu Moana. Robert Sullivan is a poet of Ngapuhi/Irish descent, and is the author of a number of books of poetry, a graphic novel, and a prize-winning book of Maori legends for children. He coedited Mauri Ola, and Whetu Moana. He is a former literary fellow at the University of Auckland and a former distinguished visiting writer at the University of Hawai‘i–Manoa, where he taught creative writing. He now heads the creative writing program at Manukau Institute of Technology in Auckland.

Read an Excerpt

Puna Wai Korero

An Anthology of Maori Poetry in English

By Reina Whaitiri, Robert Sullivan

Auckland University Press

Copyright © 2014 Reina Whaitiri and Robert Sullivan
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-77558-747-7



Apirana Ngata (1874–1950) of Ngati Porou was the first Maori to complete a New Zealand university education, gaining an MA and a law degree. In 1927 Ngata was granted a knighthood for his immense contribution to Maori cultural and economic revival in the first half of the twentieth century. He instigated Maori land reforms and health and hygiene programmes. Among his many achievements were his serial publications of waiata in the Journal of the Polynesian Society, later and posthumously published as Nga Moteatea by his protégé, Pei Te Hurinui Jones. His intelligence, tact, persistence, charm and political skill brought him considerable success in his many endeavours.

    A scene from the past

    A description of the Maori haka by Apirana T. Ngata.


    We reck not that the day has past;
    That Death and Time, the cruel Fates,
    Have torn us from the scenes we loved,
    And brought us to this unknown world.
    In mem'ry ling'ring, all too hazy,
    Blurred, uncertain, still they charm us.
    Ah, we love them! Language doth but
    Clothe in artifice our passion,
    Doth but to the world proclaim
    We are traitors to the past.

    Traitors? when our hearts are beating,
    Thrilling stirred by recollections?
    Present, Future? Them we know not;
    For us no memories they hold.
    Traitors? when our ears are ringing,
    Filled with echoes from the dead?
    Deaf to all, these chords alone
    Make heavenly music, penetrating
    Souls by strangeness long since deadened,
    Now in sympathy vibrating.
    Traitors? Nay, we scorn the name!
    Bigots, blind fanatic worshippers,
    Idolaters serving things of clay,
    Call us, and that name were dear!

    On life's rough stream you launched us forth;
    You thought to buoy us, gave us hope.
    Your sturdy oak, our flaxen bark,
    Your iron-clad, our humble reed,
    Made sorry company, and you glided,
    Well equipped, the whilst we trembled.
    Ah, no! your hope but kills all hope;
    You crush the life you wish to save.
    Nay, rather leave us with the past;
    In mem'ry let us wander back
    Amid the scenes we loved of yore.
    There let us roam, untrammelled, free,
    For mem'ry, like that herb, embalms,
    Preserves, endears our recollections.

       (The marae and hui.)
    One dear scene in my mind's eye is floating,
    Martial, warlike, yet so graceful;
    Stag'd in meads that heard no bleating,
    Save of savage babes at play.

    There the old pa stands to-day,
    Where the mountain, clad in koukas,
    Bends with gentle slope and fondly
    Show'rs kisses on the stream.
    Rippling, laughing, winding, moaning,
    Hies she on to join the ocean,
    Emblem of a race that's speeding
    Sadly onwards to oblivion.
    Day is breaking on that pa,
    All within is bustle, stir.
    'Tis the hour of dedication,
    Te Kawanga, solemn consecration,
    When our whare in its beauty
    Tukutuku, pukana e korirari!
    Duly to the gods in Heaven
    With our war-dance must be given.

       (The assembly of the tribes.)
    All day long, from far and near,
    The crowds pour in to see and hear.
    Amid this group are chieftains bold,
    Rewi, Taonui – names of old.
    Yonder Kahungunu, mere in hand,
    Frowning marshals forth his band –
    Te Arawa, Tainui me Te Whakatohea
    Whakaata, Taupare, Tuwhakairiora.
    A noble sight th' intruding band.
    But grander yet unfolds itself,
    Yonder, massed, one sea of forms,
    Maids with warriors alternating.
    In the van are maidens lovely,
    Dressed in mats of finest fibre,
    Cheeks with takou gaily hued,
    Plumed with quills of rarest huia.
    Beyond – but no; no more is seen,
    Though hundreds lie to shout 'Haere mai!'
    The maids must first display their graces,
    Then we'll gaze on warriors' faces.

       (Maidens' welcome.)
    Softly and gently, and chanting most sweetly,
    Uplift they their welcome, 'Haere mai! Haere mai!'
    With knees bent gracefully, with slow step and gesture,
    As soft as the panther; yet queenly and stately.
    Hark! now it is changing, in chorus they're joining;
    It swells and it rings, it bursts forth triumphant.
    In voice and in gesture; in body and limb,
    Their welcome is spoken, 'Naumai! naumai!'
    How nimbly they foot it, how supple their bodies;
    Ye nymphs and ye naiads, beware of your laurels!
    These children untutored, by Nature endowed,
    May charm yet Apollo, the god of all graces.

       (Chant while withdrawing.)
    Kihei aku mihi i pau atu, e hine!
    Rokohanga koe ka pikauria e!
    But now, behold, the nymphs subside,
    The rhythmic motion's ceased, and lo!
    The ranks give way, the van files off,
    Unfolding terrors to our view.
    Rows of warriors, dusky, war-like,
    Line the earth and make it bristle;
    All recumbent, silent, speechless,
    Seeming in lethargic sleep.

       (The men's welcome.)
    Aotearoa's sons, ye warriors stern!
    Awake! awake! they come! they come!
    'Welcome, ye strangers; Naumai! Naumai!'
    Respond ye to the call so feebly,
    Though your war-paint glows so fiercely!
    'Welcome ye strangers! Haere mai! haere mai!'
    Ha! ye sluggards, raise your voices,
    Up and stamp and tread like Maoris!
    'Tis the haka powhiri, war-dance,
    Fierce and warlike, savage, martial!

       (The whakaara.)
    Ko te iwi Maori e ngunguru nei! Au, au, au e ha!
    Ko te iwi Maori e ngunguru nei! Au, au, au e ha!
    Ko nga iwi katoa ra, tau tangata e taoho ai koe,

    Ha! your blood is coursing now!
    Ha! your spirit's roused at last!
    Ha! the welcome rings out clear!
    Powhiritia atu! Haere mai! Haere mai!

    Heads erect and bodies stately,
    Proud, imperious, yet be graceful;
    Arms and limbs in rhythm moving,
    Mars, Apollo, are reviewing.

       (The grand powhiri.)
    Tena i whiua!
    With motion majestic, their arms now wide sweeping;
    Now circles describing, then to heav'n up-lifted,
    Their bodies set firmly, yet limbs in mid-air!
    Tena i takahia!
    With knee joints set loose;
    With frenzy in gesture, with eye-brows contracting,
    With eyes glowing fiercely, with bounding and leaping!
    But, mark, mild Apollo, the War-god is soothing.

    'Powhiritia atu!' 'Haere mai! Haere mai!'
    Ha! warriors are leaping; the ranks they are surging;
    The War-god has conquered; the war-cry is raised!
    'Tis sounding, 'tis swelling, 'tis roaring, 'tis thund'ring!
    Ha! Frenzy, thou workest; 'tis blood now they smell.
    'The battle! the battle! our taiahas and meres!'
    They shout as they leap; a madness has seized them.
    'Tako ki to kai rangatira! Tako!'

    (1892; 1908)


Hiria Anderson (Ngati Maniapoto) lives with her whanau in what was once her grandparents' home in Otorohanga and has established a small studio there. She attended Queen Victoria School: 'Hone Tuwhare visited our English classes as a guest and was most influential.' In the mid-1990s she was involved in Nga Puna Waihanga o Tainui – Maori Artists and Writers – and formally trained in visual art under the tutelage of James F. Ormsby. Visual arts and creative writing are a big part of her life. She is currently undertaking an MFA. She is also dyslexic.

    Forked tongue

    You stared me in the face
    even looked me in the eye
    without a flinch of your furrowed brow
    not a wrinkle in your upturned, thin-lipped mouth
    with flailing hands you uttered:
    'And even though we govern the waterways
    it won't stop you praying to "your" god of the sea'
    and you expected me to smile, and then you said:
    'We will be better caretakers because we have money'
    and you expected me to feel better, and then you said:
    'It's not just "us" that pollute the water, it's all of us'
    and you expected me to agree with this, and then you said:
    'You "can" eat the shellfish, after we clean the sewerage up'
    and you expected my child to eat, and then you said:
    'We will all benefit from this sale, they need our sand'
    and you expected me to believe this!
    I will never believe this!


Mate kite

It wasn't up to me who I'd see
they'd just be there doing their own thing
as if I wasn't there ... like I'm the ghost or sumthin.

But I noticed them; they would tumble like leaves
down from the trees and swirl all around me
and I would cradle them in my arms
like memories.

Who lent their eyes to me?
The threads that they have woven said
We had it comin, you and I.
Next time I hope they bring pizza.



Te Awhina Arahanga descends from Ngati Tuwharetoa, Te Ati Haunui a Paparangi, Ngati Hauiti ki Rata, Rapuwai, Waitaha, Ngati Mamoe, Ngai Tahu and a sprinkling of Scottish and English whakapapa. She is a writer, researcher and social historian. Te Awhina has been resident at the Michael King Writers' Centre, has won the Huia short story competition, has contributed short stories to Radio New Zealand, and has been published in various poetry anthologies and journals.

    Evening high

    Don't tell the world
    specially about oneself
    that sweet tender
    is not obtainable
    when you've
    unrequited love



Hinemoana Baker (Ngati Raukawa, Ngati Toa Rangatira, Te Atiawa, Ngai Tahu, Germany, England) was born in Christchurch and raised in Whakatane and Nelson. She is a poet, recording artist, singer-songwriter, occasional broadcaster and tutor of creative writing. Her first collection of poetry, matuhi | needle (VUP, 2004), and her second, koiwi koiwi (VUP, 2010), draw on aspects of her mixed Maori and Pakeha heritage. Her third, waha | mouth, will be published during her 2014 term as writer in residence at the International Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University, Wellington.

    Te tangi a te rito

    Bones, in this place the soles
    of my feet are not null; how
    must I walk? My throat
    has not woven the call. My throat

    has not spoken the harakeke. The north
    you say, is thick with it.
    Open-mouthed for the host but not
    so silenced in the throat. In this kitchen

    violence placed its thumbs on the bud
    of the call. In this garden violence
    pinched us back.
    The softness drops
    from your forehead, shame
    darkens my mouth to a
    museum, to a purple
    gallery of puha and paua and the sounds
    of these things
    that keep a family well-fed
    and its friends
    at your table in the singing



    the dead
    the dead
    the dead

    up to their eyeballs
    watching over
    and over us

    dancing, falling
    over like totara
    the small leak

    in the canoe or
    the big rent in the hull
    they lie in us



    I hang out the washing
    at night.

    Each peg squeaks
    into place.

    You, in the kitchen light,
    warming my back.

    * * *

    I'm worrying again
    about your liver

    as if it helps.
    I feel around

    on you – which side
    is it? How big?

    * * *

    You have nightmares
    and kick me in your sleep.

    I kick you back.


    Matariki, e

    you have gone home

    you made me feel
    I had discovered fire

    you have left the room

    you made me feel
    I had invented the wheel

    in the end
    room we gather
    round you

    you made me feel
    the sun wheeled in me
    the moon on my tongue


    My life part II: I think you're on your own with that one, bro

    My father's curling kidney. A funeral a month.
    The mackerel sky and a steam train.
    Red dust from the 1920s.
    Blue fountain pen trailing up and off the page.
    Matilda's metatarsals, Banjo's jaw.
    And still and still. Slowest jump ever.

    I make the joke about how I taught her everything she knows.
    Until one of us got chilblains
    and the dachsund ruined it. Or the dalmatian.
    Everyone but me in aprons. Butter glazing my fingers.
    Welsh rarebit lumpy with flour; crumbling fudge.

    We all say it wasn't a shark it was your kidney. Peace lifts
    the photograph off the wall. They weren't just sisters
    they were two white horses. The sun glanced off the windscreen
    I swerved and you swore. My scarf pink, my mother's

    blue, bone tipping above the surface of noon. She sweats
    and still, and still, she sleeps while they
    bandage her. What to do with fabric and skin.
    Your ankles are weeping pus. Your
    eyelids. Keep kneading

    and still and still. Butter glazes.
    He died on the operating table, nineteen years old.
    Watched his girlfriend crying over him and came back.

    Fuck that priest and his last rites.
    The bed was the one you held me down on
    instead I bled out. Or a weta.

    And still and still, screech-giggling, a sour smell in my armpits,
    hoards of them following me up the footpath.
    The black and silver radio, dial like a safe.
    Tongue-burn, clouds of steam, crowds waving
    identical flags. The crows are children

    who have had something taken from them,
    something edible. What are you ... thirty-two? Thirty-three?
    Wood tells the truth. Outside the room I shook and
    shuddered while the Zimbabweans laughed at me.
    There will never be a gap in this State Highway 1
    traffic that someone will not willingly close before you can join in.
    The wind makes a sound through eight different chimes.
    It's not the fault of the game, says Peace. I draw the ferns
    in a chart alongside mucus and masturbation.
    I put down the books and say a prayer for concentration.
    That place online where you can listen

    to thousands of crickets slowed down and
    they sound like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
    Yes, and a Lakota soprano sings with them in Italian.



He uri no Te Atiawa, Ngati Raukawa, Ngati Toarangatira me Ngai Tahu. 'I have grown up around many great storytellers: my parents, my aunts and uncles and of course my grandfather, who in his old age recalled a world I could only ever imagine. He was a proud man who would remind us that we descended from great navigators, inventors and thinkers. I wrote this poem at age seventeen, within a year of his passing, in remembrance of an upright man whose influence has stayed with me throughout my life.'


    It was good to hear your
    voice again,

    I was listening to the
    Maori radio station,
    when your voice came over.
    They played a tape of you,
    talking about your
    younger days.
    It was like sitting once again
    in the lounge, on Matene Street,
    listening to your hardcase stories.

    I never realised how much
    I missed you.
    And how I missed the way you
    clicked your tongue when you were
    in awe of something, or your
    cups of tea and bread.
    And believe it or not I miss
    that walking stick, too.

    Well, your snotty-nosed
    know-it-all mokopuna is still
    the same.
    She hopes to see you again some time.
    Maybe you could tell her another
    one of your stories.

    It was good to hear your
    voice again,



Hilary Baxter, of Taranaki, Whakatohea, was born in 1949 to James K. Baxter and J. C. Sturm. She had several poems published in university magazines and her collection of poetry, The Other Side of Dawn, was published in 1987. Although a long-time resident of Darwin, Australia, she eventually returned to Aotearoa and died in Paekakariki in 2013.


    I remember as a child
    my father would carry me
    high up on
    his shoulders or head
    I would suffocate
    in the red knitted jumpsuit
    and father wearing
    his old gabardine coat

    He would gallop through
    the Karori bush
    with me precariously above
    across the paths banks
    lost streams
    made of wet brown leaves

    Then coming up
    the gravel drive
    onto the old road
    no more would I feel
    as though my throne of trees
    looked down on the world

    that lay there waiting for me to grow


    I am going back ...

    I am going back to the land
    I am going back to the marae
    and I will relive Jerusalem
    before I die


    October 1972

    My joy is a tribal joy
    my loneliness is strong loneliness
    and my sorrow
    is pathways of flowers
    leading to the river
    where the taniwha moves

    and the moreporks called
    for a barefoot father
    my father
    disciple of the Maori Christ

    I hear an old man singing
    and there is sunlight in his hair



Arapera Hineira Blank (1932–2002) was a descendant of the tribes of Ngati Porou, Ngati Kahungunu, Rongowhakaata and Te Aitanga a Mahaki. She was born in Rangitukia on the East Coast of the North Island, was a teacher and poet, and one of a small group of Maori writers in English during the 1950s. In 1959 she was awarded a special Katherine Mansfield Memorial Award for her essay 'Ko taku kumara hei wai-u mo tama'. She said of herself: 'I enjoy words that sparkle, whether they be Maori, my mother tongue, or English.'

    Expression of an inward self with a linocut

    I build something up,
    complicated and complex,
    I hope,
    but alas!
    nothing so deep emerges.
    Only simple lines –
    hacked out of a piece
    of worn-out lino –
    that curve and dip
    to a traditional line
    almost moronic
    in their upward
    outward bend to the left
    to the right
    what the hell!

    Why should I lie
    to myself?
    I am what I am
    carved out of a long line
    of heavy-footed deep-rooted
    wanting to love well
    eat well die with the thought of
    kumara vine stretched out
    reproducing an image –
    many images of itself,
    its hopes
    drenched in warmth
    with roots forever seeking
    the sun.



    When you feel
    heaviness of spirit
    belly tighten
    deep hurt under your heart,
    reach out for someone,
    no one comes,
    turn inwards.

    Fall into gentle breathing,
    listen to the music
    of silence,
    lie still, float, on
    velvet black,
    till your body
    is bathed in calm,
    slowly unfold your
    pain-easing dream.

    Imagine you came
    into this world
    in a cloud of
    silk, shimmering up
    with the dawn, along,
    down to a dew-damp earth,
    that warmed with you,
    filled her people
    song-rich with hope
    for spiritual peace,
    tomorrow, and tomorrow.

    'The sun rises,
    the sun sets,
    the sun rises.

    He ra ka whiti
    he ra ka to
    he ra ka whiti.'



Excerpted from Puna Wai Korero by Reina Whaitiri, Robert Sullivan. Copyright © 2014 Reina Whaitiri and Robert Sullivan. Excerpted by permission of Auckland University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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