Creative space

Poems by New Zealanders on the journey…

Heretaunga Valley

I was in Wellington the other day,
somewhere deep in the Hutt, and close to Silverstream,
rising up one of those long stretching valleys that
fades into the side of mist enshrouded hills.

And somewhere in there,
I found myself again:
stranded in a crevice,
peering out to the rocky ridge,
fumbling over the jagged edges,
to the ubiquitous beyond.

And I looked down on Heretaunga Valley,
and dreamed of the great warrior, Te Rauparaha,
who fought with cunning and guile,
and for a time,
blasted the poms to the backside of the moon.

And thought of how these lands were formed,
through blood shed and deceit,
and how that saddened me,
the blustering Southerly thickened in my soul.

I sat uncomfortably by the shadowy hills,
and wanted to sense the sun on my back again,
I could hitch a ride perhaps,
and escape over the Rimutakas, to the plains of tranquility,
or build a shack in a little grove, down by the Hutt River,
after all, there are prisms of light in these dark valleys.

And we come back to these contrasts,
Te Rauparaha the fighting man,
or Te Whiti, the Parihaka Prophet,
both fighting to be free.

And we ask whether it is nobler in the mind,
to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
or by taking arms against the sea of troubles, and thus opposing it,
thus ending it. (nb Hamlet)

These issues of justice that we cannot escape from,
despite our best efforts,
in modern urban dwellings,
these olden day warriors,
speaking ancient battle tales.

Does justice play a part in my own life?
Do I seek out the just,
running after it even as a stronghold of my life,
but tolerating the unjust,
leaving vengeance to God?
Like the butterfly by the stream,
fluttering free, clinging ever so lightly,
easy come, easy go?

I’m heading up the Heretaunga Valley now,
past the blood stained houses,
and the long defunct Maori villages,
to where your love is.

© Blair Franklin, 2011

Dawn Prayer Service

(A poem on the occasion of the Dawn Prayer service, held at Meeting House, Waitangi treaty grounds, on Waitangi Day, 2010. The Prime minister and other dignitaries attended, and Christian minister, John Komene took the service.)

Underneath the black horizon

the Whare a beckon of majesty

and gathered the dignitaries,

and in dignity she lay.


Inside the meeting house,

the Maori Minister presided,

who I could not see,

but I imagined him,

Taiaha in one hand,

the Sword of the Spirit in the other.


Deep sonorous booms came forth,

the words of a man,

a man of his word,

a man of the Word,

like flames of gold,

pelting the night sky.


Restless warrior,

who attacked the village,

you crept up on them,

an ambush,

whilst they were asleep.


The red gold cirrus slowly emerges,

along the dreary horizon,

a fitting accompaniment,

the preacher man and rising sun.


Deep wells of inner resolve,

doing war in the trenches,

in the barracks of life,

breaking down walls and fences.


The citadel of my integrous

woven into the courage of your conviction.

© Blair Franklin, 2010


Land Poem

I am going to buy your land.

Buy your land and sell it on.


I am going to buy your land.

Your land with its umbilical cords and wrapped buried bones,

Your land with all its names and spirit-beasts which are guardians and people-eaters.

I am going to buy your land of ancient genealogies and histories,

your land of markers made of water, made of wood, made of bone and spirit,

markers that show where a path ends, where an area is sacred, where to tie your canoe,

where an area is forbidden, where you may take from the river the fish and eels because they

are so abundant, they are a feast swimming upstream.


I am going to buy your land.

I know of a number of ways to do this.

I do not want to keep it for myself,

I want to sell it; the sales will bring me a profit.


I am going to buy your skies,

and I am going to buy your land.

I can’t use your traps or use your boats, I can’t move over the hills without scuffing my dirty

feet on the sacred lands of your neighbours.

I can’t hear the rattle of the stones on the bottom of the river which means that the river is

alive and healthy, I won’t be able to hear the silence of the stones when the river becomes

weak, I won’t know what this means. I will wonder why there are less fish than there used to



I am going to buy your land

and then sell it.


There is a lot of land here,

I am going to buy it, it is your land, right?


I have some maps, or at least some sketches of the land I would like to buy,

the maps will indicate where your land ends, and the portion which I would like to buy.

The maps do not show the tail of the spirit-beast which casts water from the lake onto the

shore, or the arms of the forest-spirit strong as the numerous trees, with his head on the belly

of the earth-spirit, his feet pressed up into against the sky-spirit.


There are a lot of people here, on this land,

but I can’t see anyone on that hill

or in that valley,

so I can buy it, it is your land, right?


I am going to buy your land.

I am going to buy your blood.

I am going to buy your bones and flesh,

your tattoos and carvings, your traditions and stories.

I am going to buy your ancestors and your children.

I am going to buy your yet unborn descendants,

I am going to buy their lives, their jobs, their tongues and speech.

I am going to buy your land.

© Cameron Hockly, 2010


Fascinating –

so this is how it feels

to discuss these subjects freely, no taboos

(or tapu)


Walking backward’s really going forward

Talking round in circles helps us see the way ahead


And suddenly I’m face to face with an ancestor

Eyeballing me –

more questions on her lips than answers;


“Girl, what are you going to do with your life?”

“What are you going to leave here for our children’s children’s children?”

© Stephanie Wood 2007

E waiata o whangakarekare Lyall

(The song of Lyall Bay)

Rocking back in the drivers seat of my parked car this morning

I pulled the guitar to my chest and sang kia tau, kia tatau katoa

To the dogs on the beach

I felt Te Rangimarie flooding my whole being

I sang kia tau to the dogs

A prayer for all the dogs in Wellington


I sang for their souls and their happiness

Kia Ora nga kuri, be well be alive

Your bum sniffing, salt water shaking has infected me

Run faster than the wind

Piss on every log

You own this beach

Tihe Mauri Ora!

© Joel Carpenter, 2010

This Morning on the Waikato

The Waikato river is fat this morning

its belly is full with flood waters

and I believe there are many Taniwha

in this part of the river


My cousin manoeuvres our fibreglass

motorboat with less speed than usual

and our four eyes scan ahead

looking for submerged logs,

the taniwha that shows only its toe

yet hides its monstrous tail


inching our way upstream

towards the pub at mercer

I remember the old canon ball

that Dan’s old man unearthed

in a muddy bank not far from here


they fought along this river

blood spilt by the bucket

fighting for land, or pride, or something


This muddy river hides plenty.

We skim across its surface

looking for logs

thinking about hot chips and a beer.

© Joel Carpenter 2008

Arrivals and Things that Shine


let me return to my river

and mountain, and speak with my tipuna

maybe they will hold out a steady hand

a firm grip and show me the right path

to walk in.


tonight on my arrival I did the customary

trip along the road to visit granny

she just got a new sky dish and showed me

her 41 new channels, she showed me each

channel individually holding out the remote like a

royal sceptre in one hand, and bringing the index finger

of the other hand down carefully on each button,

as though a wrong move could cause the whole box

to explode. When you get to her age you deserve

to have 41 channels.


I am several cups of tea away

from Wellington already

I have escaped its clasp

Its dark hills and gullies

where I forget the meaning

of horizon

and what a vast sky can do

for a man’s soul


This afternoon while towing

my cousin Richard up the Waikato river

on his single ski

I pulled a sharp u-turn coming face to face

with a sunset sky that snaked the horizon

a West-coast dragon,

wrapping the clouds with its glory.

© Joel Carpenter 2008

Waitangi ’07

Waitangi –

is having your spirit moulded by the spirit of the land –

the mauri – the breath of life

the life breathed by the Creator into the first human being

– Tihei wa mauri ora!


is humbling your spirit to be softened and awed

by the tangata whenua –

the people of the land


is experiencing the birth-place of the Nation

& the birth-place of the Gospel


The Gospel comes first

– its Spirit cannot be quenched

The Spirit breathed life into the manawa of the people

The people felt the power of Resurrection

– re-awakening them to their uniqueness –

children of Kupe & Maui –

children of the Southern Seas


‘From the rising of the Sun –

my Name shall be praised among the nations’


Tihei wa mauri ora! – ‘my

WORD shall not return to me

void but shall accomplish

that which I intended for it’


The Land inflicted by wounds –

blood spilt in grabbing and grasping

for land – the land which gives life

Papatuanuku! – life is strangled from it

– writhing in pain its people writhe with it –

taken – lost

turned inside out

upside down

iwi – bones –

it gives up the bones buried in it –

hapu – whanau –

birth – death – will there be life again?


The spirit of the Treaty demands it


– empty words?


Covenant – a Covenant lies beneath –

buried in the land –

the land is tilled

in hope

– the land gives up the dead that is in it

the dead?



Covenant – blood spilt –

Bones risen to life –

iwi – people – hapu – whanau

Ko Ihu te tangata!

Tihei wa mauri ora !!



What is needed?

What is necessary?


Blood spilt again – in love –

aroha – that binds together

Maori, Pakeha

Tangata Whenua, Tangata Tiriti

(more peoples come – the door of Waitangi is open

Ko nga iwi o Aotearoa – haere mai!)


Who sees it?

Who waits for it?


A people prepared for the LORD

Watch, Wait

Do you see them?

These Apostles, Prophets, Pastors, Teachers,

Evangels of Blood-Spilt?


Te Tiriti!


Tihei wa mauri ora !!







Haumi e, hui e, Taiki e!






‘Mauri’: breath of life/ life principle. Tihe mauri ora : refers to the breath of life breathed into the first human being. (In Maori cosmology the first human being is a woman. The parallels of this story with Genesis are obvious and fascinating.) During formal speeches/ oratory, you will often hear speakers using this phrase, sometimes repeatedly.


‘Manawa’: has various meanings including: heart, breath, mind/ spirit, belly/bowels.


‘Papatuanuku’: in Maori cosmology, the earth-mother or the earth.


‘Iwi’: people/ tribe, but more literal meaning is bone(s).


‘Hapu’: pregnant, sub-tribe


‘Whanau’: be born, family


‘Kahore’: no, not


‘Ko Ihu te tangata!’: Jesus is the man (literal)


‘Tangata Whenua’: The people of the land


‘Tangata Tiriti’: The people who are here by right of the Treaty (Te Tiriti)


‘Ko nga iwi o Aotearoa’: the peoples of Aotearoa


‘Haere mai’: welcome


‘Kawenata’: Covenant (used in Maori for ‘Testament’ as in Old and New Testament)


‘Te Tiriti’: the Maori name for the Treaty


‘Haumi e, hui e, taiki e!’: bind it, bring it together, let it be done (often said in chorus during formal oratory where the rest of the group will join in the main speaker)


© Samuel Carpenter 2007

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