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Hone T02

Hone Tūwhare’s † Biography

Last Updated:
19/04/2021, 12:21 pm
Arts Foundation Icon 2003
“They had a good library at the railway workshops and so I discovered a new world.”

Hone Tūwhare is often described as having brought an exciting new dimension to New Zealand poetry: his voice communicated a distinctly Maori perspective marked by a lyrical response to the landscape. Born in 1922 in Kaikohe, Tūwhare was encouraged to write by fellow poet R. A. K. Mason when he was working as an apprentice at the Otahuhu Railway Workshops.

His first collection, No Ordinary Sun (1964), was the first book of poetry by a Māori writer in English. Now in its tenth edition, it remains one of the most widely read individual collections of poetry in New Zealand. While in Dunedin as a Burns Fellow (1969), Hone met painter Ralph Hotere, who provided the illustrations for his next four volumes: Come Rain Hail (1970), Sap-Wood & Milk (1972), Something Nothing (1974) and Making a Fist of It: Poems and Short Stories (1978).

During the 1970s Tūwhare became involved in many Maori cultural and political initiatives. His international reputation also grew: there were invitations to visit both China and Germany, leading, among other opportunities, to the publication of Was wirklicher ist als Sterben in 1985. While his earlier poems were kept in print, new work was constantly added. His play, In the Wilderness Without a Hat, was published in 1991. Three further collections of poetry followed: Short Back and Sideways: Poems & Prose (1992), Deep River Talk (1993), and Shape-Shifter (1997).

Two years later he was named New Zealand's second Te Mata Poet Laureate, the outcome of which was Piggy-Back Moon (2002). He received his Icon Award in 2003, the same year he was awarded a Prime Minister's Awards for Literary Achievement for poetry. In 1998, Tūwhare received an honorary Doctor of Literature from the University of Otago, and again in 2005 from the University of Auckland.

Hone Tūwhare died on 16 January 2008