new zealand electronic poetry centre



A L I S T A I R   T E   A R I K I   C A M P B E L L

Alistair Te Ariki Campbell, poet, playwright and novelist, was born in 1925 in Rarotonga in the Cook Islands and spent his first seven years there. His mother was a Penrhyn Islander and his father a third-generation New Zealander from Dunedin. For years, Campbell was a poet in the European tradition. The first major expression of his early Polynesian influences was in Sanctuary of Spirits (1963), when he chose to write of the Maori history which surrounded his home at Pukerua Bay, near Wellington. At that time he identified with the local Nga¯ti Toa tribe but later he returned to the Cook Islands and found a new sense of identity. His publications of poetry include Kapiti (Pegasus Press, 1972), The Dark Lord of Savaiki (Te Kotare Press, 1980), Soul Traps (Te Kotare Press, 1985), Stone Rain: The Polynesian Strain (Hazard Press, 1992), Pocket Collected Poems (Hazard Press, 1996), Maori Battalion: A Poetic Sequence (Wai-te-ata Press, 2001), a sequence of poems that takes the reader into the minds of the soldiers in the Maori Battalion, and his latest work, Poets in Our Youth: Four Letters in Verse (Pemmican Press, 2002), one of which is addressed to James K. Baxter.

To Stuart

Early spring, and a cold wet morning.
         The wind mooches about outside,
                   planning a home invasion.
It’s Mary’s birthday, our Mary whom
         you’d have loved had the Fates
                   spared you. I take you back
five years before you joined
         the Maori Battalion, and six before you
                   died. I have many questions to put
to you, many that may not even have
         an answer. Why being blessed with
                   enviable gifts did you abandon
your studies after only a year?
         You could have made your mark
                   in any field that calls
for passion and imagination.
         As a boy I followed you about
                   from match to match marvelling
at what you created with a
         cricket ball. Your bowling
                   action and the flight of the ball,
gathering speed as it flew
         towards its target, were to me
                   a work of art. As an admiring
younger brother, I celebrate
         this image of what you promised
                   and never lived to fulfil.
‘Nature,’ wrote William Blake,
         ‘has no Outline, but Art has.’
                   I see you turn and run up
to the crease. I see your
         arm swing over. I see the
                   ball in flight – and that is all.



Last updated 04 July, 2004