Happy Birthday James K. Baxter!

Hokitika Bill, Hokitika Bill. I remember chanting this poem aloud at Primary School.

Poet James K. Baxter was born in Dunedin on 29 June 1926. His parents were thinkers – his father Archibald was a conscientious objector and Millicent, his mother had been to College in Sydney.

The dichotomy of social order was represented by his family – his maternal grandfather was Māori, his paternal grandfather was Scots. This fed his mind with the differences and similarities between Clans and Tribes.

Baxter began writing poetry from age seven. His work is said to have become technically accomplished by the time he was a teenager.

Beyond the Palisade was published in 1944 – Baxter’s first year of University at Otago, to great acclaim. Influenced by Dylan Thomas, as was Janet Frame at the time, Baxter was part of the Wellington Group of writers. Fellows included W.H. Oliver and Alistair Te Ariki Campbell.

Cover of O Jerusalem: James K. Baxter : An Intimate MemoirIn 1968 Baxter was told in a dream to go to Jerusalem (Hiruharama), a settlement on the Whanganui River. He worked with the poor, and spoke out against a social order that sanctions poverty.

Baxter’s canon of works is astronomical, and well worth a read. We also have his novel – Horse.

Check out our James K. Baxter display in the reference room at Central Library Manchester.

Further reading

Winds that Whisper by the Tower New Zealand Youth Choir – free online New Zealand music

Winds that Whisper is a collection of 20th century choral music from New Zealand’s outstanding Tower NZ Youth Choir directed by Karen Grylls.

It brings together a wide range of New Zealand choral music – from waiata by Ngapo Wehi and Richard Puanaki to major works by Jenny McLeod and David Hamilton. It provides a comprehensive overview of the rich choral music that has been produced by New Zealand composers.

This album (and over 52,000 more) is available online for free from anywhere with your library card number and PIN.

For New Zealand Music Month we are featuring a daily dose of free online New Zealand music from Naxos Music Library and the Source.