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25 poets for National Poetry Day

News: 25 August 2023

25 poets for  25 August - New Zealand Poetry Day

Te Ara - the Encyclopaedia of New Zealand has a great collection of poets reading and talking about their poems. In honour of New Zealand Poetry Day 2023, here is the list of 25 poets reading their own poems:

  1. Here poet Jacqueline Sturm (Taranaki, Te Whakatōhea) is interviewed by John Campbell in 2000. She discusses her life, her short stories and her poetry. She reads the poem ‘New Year’s Eve 1998’, from her second collection or poetry, Postscripts (2000).
  2. In this recording, Alistair Campbell, reads several of his poems dating from various points in his career. He opens by saying: ‘The poems I’ve chosen are about love. The earliest I wrote in 1947, and the latest only a few weeks ago. They’re simple and direct and derive their imagery from the landscape.’
  3. As a pioneering Samoan novelist and the first Pacific Island professor in New Zealand, Albert Wendt has made a major contribution to exploring questions of Pacific Island and Samoan identity. Listen to him reading some his poetry, including ‘I, God Uphere’ from 1976.
  4. Poet Elizabeth Smither reading a poem from 2006: 'Two security guards talking about Jupiter'. A typical Smither poem is marked by verbal wit, and an intense delight in metaphor with its ability to deliver surprising revelations.
  5. Hinemoana Baker (Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Toa Rangatira, Te Āti Awa and Ngāi Tahu), published her second collection of poems Kōiwi kōiwi – bone bone, in 2010. Baker is a performance poet and her first collection, Mātuhi – needle (2004) included a CD of her readings in the back pocket of the book. Here she reads 'Methods of assessing the likely presence of a terrorist threat in a remote indigenous community', a poem from Kōiwi kōiwi – bone bone.
  6. In 1964 Hone Tuwhare’s first collection of poems, No ordinary sun, was published to acclaim. Listen here to Tuwhare (Ngāpuhi) read the title poem, a passionate anti-nuclear piece informed by his recollections of the ruins of Hiroshima when he was serving in Japan after the Second World War. 
  7. Anna Jackson is both a poet and an academic, teaching English literature at Victoria University of Wellington. Here she reads her poem, 'Spring'.
  8. In this 1987 recording, southern poet Ruth Dallas reads three of her poems: her best-known poem ‘Milking before dawn’ as well as ‘The Remarkables, Queenstown’, and parts of ‘Moods of a day’, from her third collection Shadow show (1968).
  9. Otago poet and Landfall editor Charles Brasch often evoked the sense of a lonely figure in the New Zealand landscape. 
  10. In this 1996 recording, Lauris Edmond talks about her poetry collection A matter of timing. The clip opens with her reading ‘In position’ and ‘Take one’. She discusses her inspiration for writing poetry, the theme of aging, and using events from her own life in poems.
  11. In this poem ‘In a village’, South Auckland Poets Collective member Daren Kamali reflects on the power of the homeland for Pacific Islanders who have settled in New Zealand cities, and traces the movement from island to Auckland.
  12. Hear James K. Baxter read nine of his poems, written between the 1940s and early 1970s. 
  13. Here A. R. D. Fairburn read some of his poems for radio broadcast in the programme 'New Zealand poets' readings', recorded in the 1950s. The poems are 'Full fathom five', 'A farewell' and 'Walking on my feet'.
  14. Denis Glover reads his poem 'Towards Banks Peninsula', recorded for radio in May 1978.
  15. Here Louis Johnson talking about the business of poetry, and reading his poem 'Singing to the ancestors’, recorded for radio in September 1980 in a programme called 'Louis Johnson reads his own poems'.
  16. Bill Manhire was New Zealand’s first poet laureate (1997–99), reflecting his very considerable reputation. Listen here to Bill read 'Visiting Mr Shackleton'.
  17. R. A. K. Mason wrote a number of very fine poems of undoubted power before the age of 30.  'Be Swift O Sun' is described as one of the few of Mason's poems which clearly locates itself on the Pacific side of the globe.
  18. Allen Curnow explains both the personal and cultural context of his famous poem ‘The Skeleton of the Great Moa in the Canterbury Museum, Christchurch’ which compares the position of the poet in New Zealand with the skeleton of a moa in Canterbury Museum.
  19. Though best-known as a historian, W.H. (Bill) Oliver was also a well-known poet, particularly during the 1940s and 1950s. This 2012 recording features Oliver reading five poems from various phases of his career. One of these is a poem ‘Blue Irises’ for fellow poet Lauris Edmond. 
  20. Another historian initially more prominent as a poet was Keith Sinclair. In this 1979 performance he reads an excerpt from his poem, ‘The ballad of Halfmoon Bay’.
  21. This recording is of Kendrick Smithyman, one of New Zealand’s most prolific and widely published poets, reading one of his early poems ‘Foreign Service’
  22. Sam Hunt has been taking his poetry to the public with countless performances. His readings in pubs, country halls, cafés and theatres around the country were as important as his published poetry in establishing a large following for his work, in this case it is the poem 'Lines for a new year'.
  23. Ian Wedde was the most original of the young post-war 'baby boomers' who emerged onto the New Zealand poetry scene in the early 1970s. Listen here to him reading 'To death', a poem from his 2001 collection, The commonplace odes.
  24. In this television clip from 1984, Cilla McQueen reads a poem and then talks about how she likes to express herself through a number of media – poetry, drawing and sound composition. McQueen's poetry draws on the circumstances of her domestic life and on the distinctive landscapes of southern New Zealand where she has spent much of her life.
  25. And finally, not read by the poet but by actor and playwright Bruce Mason, who reads the  first verse of Allen Curnow's 'Landfall in unknown seas'.

Updated on 28th August 2023