Tuesday Poem – TO A MAORI FIGURE CAST IN BRONZE OUTSIDE THE CHIEF POST OFFICE, AUCKLAND by Hone Tuwhare

 

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 scare-crows in seed-bed

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-the-gorge-at-

bottom-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

boy-friends licking their frozen finger-chippy lips

hopefully. And me again beetling

 

my tent eye-brows 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 kotiros too

with their mini-piupiu-ed bums twinkling: yeah!

 

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

Hone Tuwhare  Small Holes in the Silence Collected works

Hone Tuwhare
Small Holes in the Silence
Collected works

 

Hone Tuwhare(1922-2008) was born in Kaikohe, of Ngapuhi descent.  One of New Zealand’s best known and loved, he has been described as the people’s poet. The above poem is printed with kind permission from Hone’s son Rob Tuwhare.  Originally published in SAP-WOOD & MILK (1972)  it is taken from ‘Small Holes in the Silence, Collected Works, Random House NZ,  2011. (See cover photo above.)  Many thanks Rob.

I asked for permission to publish this poem because I really enjoyed it…on many levels.  Once I began to research it, I discovered a lot of other people felt the same.  It bursts with vitality and humour and also sympathy for the statue’s predicament. These factors give the reader pleasure,  apart from understanding and yet on a serious level the poem deals with  racial discrimination, political issues, and Maori land rights.


Hone’s author entry from The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature, edited by Roger Robinson and Nelson Wattie (1998),  describes it  as ‘one of his best known poems,, remarkably rich in its edged allusions to the political, economic and class contexts of race relations in New Zealand, and in its imaginative play with formal and colloquial English and Maori idioms, and with the cultural meanings carried by particularities of location in urban and suburban Auckland. The assumption of a familiar context shared unselfconsciously with his New Zealand readership is crucial to the effect of this poem (as in all Tuwhare’s mature work); because of the density of local allusion and idiom almost every line would require annotation for overseas readers.’

For those who wish to better understand some of the references in the poem, click here for an excellent power point presentation which as well as giving details about Hone and his work shows pictures of the statue and the marae.

Go here for the Arts Foundation NZ biography of Hone.

And now please return to the delights of the Tuesday Poem Hub where Mark Pirie is today’s guest editor with a poem about the All Blacks.

4 thoughts on “Tuesday Poem – TO A MAORI FIGURE CAST IN BRONZE OUTSIDE THE CHIEF POST OFFICE, AUCKLAND by Hone Tuwhare

    • Thanks for visiting Harvey. Yes it is cheeky and the more I read it and understand the background I see that it is tainted with frustration yes but the warmth of his humour and his ability to present it from the statue’s point of view are I think quite generous considering some of the circumstances from which it arose, i.e. the loss of the Ngati Whatua marae in Orakei. In 1943 Hone was involved in protest against this.

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