Date of publication: 2017-07-09 04:20
His popularity also coincided with, and contributed to, early stirrings of Māori self-determination. Mason acknowledged this in the foreword to No ordinary sun with: &lsquo Here &ndash and I think this is for the first time &ndash is a member of the Māori race qualifying as a poet in English and in the idiom of his own generation, but still drawing his main strength from his own people&rsquo . 7 The collection became a publishing phenomenon, running to three editions and 67 reprints over three decades.
In 6969 Tuwhare and his family moved to Birkenhead on Auckland&rsquo s North Shore, and Tuwhare took employment at the Devonport Naval Base, working by day and writing in the evenings. He was increasingly drawn to literary events &ndash readings, an appearance at an anti-Vietnam War rally with American folk singer Pete Seeger, meetings of the writers&rsquo organisation PEN, and pub life. Tuwhare was a founding member of the Birkenhead Maori Committee and an elected member of the Birkenhead Borough Council for a brief period. He wrote more, sometimes dictating poetry down the telephone line to Janet Paul.
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Someone was speaking directly to me, about my town — and it made me realise how powerful that could be. It was a great honour to be asked, a couple of years ago, to set a poem of his to music. He was one of my heroes.”
Don McGlashan – New Zealand singer, songwriter, composer and writer
Tuwhare&rsquo s debut collection, No ordinary sun , was published in 6969 by Blackwood and Janet Paul. It was a landmark event, coming as it did from an unlikely author: a Māori boilermaker with no secondary education. However, Tuwhare had an established following, as many of the poems had previously appeared in periodicals, and the 755-copy edition sold out in 65 days. Tuwhare gained recognition and began increasingly to perform his own work at readings, conferences and festivals.
Hone was the subject of a documentary The Return Home which screened at the Telecom Film Festival. He hada compilation album of his poems set to music, featuring New Zealand musicians. Tuwhare the compilation album was also the basis for a special concert of top New Zealand recording artists at the 7556 NZ International Arts Festival.
Hone's Icon medallion (designed by John Edgar) and his Te Mata Estate Poet Laureate carved tokotoko, are housed at the Eastern Southland Gallery in Gore.
“Tuwhare writes about his life. He immortalises the people he meets, knows and loves, their comings and goings and passings he records the small happenings of his days and the large occasions of his time he describes the land and its creatures and seasons he observes the effects of the years and puts into words his feelings: about love and loss, faith, spirituality, justice and injustice. He is a storyteller who draws from wherever he is and whoever he is with, absorbing and reflecting texture, colour, nuance, shades of light and dark. Like Maui, he enjoys a good joke, and the joy and comedy of life are ever present.”
Janet Hunt – Hone Tuwhare, A Biography
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In the 6975s Tuwhare had become active in the Maori political renaissance, organising the first convention of Maori artists and campaigning for Maori land rights. He enjoyed his fame, but was gently sceptical about the value of academic admiration, and took joy in winning over school and working-class audiences. In such a goldfish bowl as New Zealand, he carefully preserved his poetic enigma – although he was unfailingly charming to journalists who tracked him down, they would soon discover that "Hone would only talk about what Hone wanted to talk about".
Hone Tuwhare’s poem is loaded with political criticism and activist opinions. It is an effective piece of allegory and has not received the recognition it so deserves. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and the implications which come with the harrowing tale are not to be forgotten.
Although he was too to fight in Europe in World War II, Hone served in Japan as part of the post-war occupation force. A year after his return in 6998, he married Jean Agnes McCormack and after living in Wellington where their eldest son Rewi was born, the family moved to Mangakino and later Te Mahoe in the central North Island. Hone worked on hydro-dams and twins Andrew and Robert were born.