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Selected Poems

James K. Baxter

Edited by Paul Millar

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Categories: 21st Century, New Zealand
Imprint: Fyfield Books
Publisher: Carcanet Press
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Paperback (224 pages)
(Pub. Feb 2010)
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  • Description
  • Excerpt
  • Author
  • Contents
  • And this man
    On the postman’s round will meditate
    The horn of Jacob withered at the root
    Or quirks of weather. None
    Grow old easily. The poem is
    A plank laid over the lion’s den.

    from ‘Pig Island Letters, 9’

    James K. Baxter (1926-1972) is one of the twentieth-century's most remarkable poets, yet he has been too little regarded of outside his native New Zealand. In this innovative selection, Paul Millar, the expert on Baxter, gathers his most powerful and celebrated poems – political, lyrical and spiritual – with some of his more unexpected writings, including previously unpublished work. The book is in four sections, representing the stages from Baxter’s early published work to his last vivid, inspiring and notorious years as a guru of the counter-culture. Each section has a biographical introduction. Notes, a glossary covering words and references unique to New Zealand, and a full bibliography, complete this essential celebration of Baxter’s poetry.

    Cover painting: Nigel Brown, Poet as Christ. Reproduced by permission of the artist and the Alex Baird Art Collection, College House, Christchurch, New Zealand. Cover design

    Note on the Text

    the 1940s
    Beyond the Palisade    
    The Mountains    
    Love-Lyric III    
    Letter to Noel Ginn    
    The First Forgotten    
    University Song    
    Envoi [to 'University Song']    
    High Country Weather    
    Blow, Wind of Fruitfulness    
    Returned Soldier
    The Bay    
    Sea Noon    
    Let Time be Still    
    Tunnel Beach    
    Songs of the Desert, 8 ['As we have sown']    
    To my Father ['Today, looking at the flowering peach']    
    The Cave    
    Letter to Noel Ginn II    
    Poem by the Clock Tower, Sumner    
    Virginia Lake    
    Hart Crane    
    Rocket Show    
    Wild Bees    
    Poem in the Matukituki Valley    

    the 1950s
    A Rented Room    
    The Fallen House    
    Cressida, 11: Her Decision    
    The Bad Young Man    
    The Homecoming    
    Never No More    
    The Surfman’s Story    
    Spring Song    
    Elegy at the Year’s End    
    Lament for Barney Flanagan    
    To my Father ['Dear friend, …']    
    The Giant's Grave    
    Reflections on a Varsity Career    
    Crossing Cook Strait    
    Harry Fat and Uncle Sam    
    A Rope for Harry Fat    
    Husband to Wife    
    In Fires of No Return    
    By the Dry Cardrona    
    At Hokianga    
    At Akitio    
    The Phoenix' Nest    
    Song of the Years    
    Howrah Bridge    
    School Days    
    This Indian Morning    
    Night in Delhi    
    Be Happy in Bed    
    Return to Exile    
    Mr Baxter's Evening Liturgy    
    Spring Song of a Civil Servant    

    the 1960s
    The Sixties    
    Ballad of Calvary Street    
    Evidence at the Witch Trials    
    Christchurch 1948    
    To Our Lady of Perpetual Help    
    On the Death of her Body    
    Election 1960    
    A Dentist’s Window    
    To a Samoan Friend    
    At Raspberry Hut    
    The Rubber Monkey    
    A Family Photograph 1939    
    The Tree    
    The Bureaucrats    
    At Serrières    
    The Hollow Place    
    The Dying Nazi Guard    
    The Town under the Sea    
    Home Thoughts    
    The Cold Hub    
    The Iron Cradle     
    Father to Son    
    To Any Young Man who Hears my Verses Read in a
    Lecture Room    
    An Ode to the Reigning Monarch on the Occasion of
    Her Majesty's Visit to Pig Island    
    The Axe-Blade    
    Shingle Beach Poem    
    East Coast Journey    
    Pig Island Letters     
    The Waves    
    Letter to Robert Burns    
    from The Holy Life and Death of Concrete Grady
    1    The Ballad of Grady’s Dream    
    Thoughts of a Remuera Housewife    
    To a Print of Queen Victoria    
    Ballad of Nine Jobs    
    A Bucket of Blood for a Dollar    
    The Old Earth Closet    
    The Lion Skin    
    On Possessing the Burns Fellowship 1966    
    At Aramoana    
    The Maori Jesus    
    from Words to Lay a Strong Ghost
    1    The Party    
    12    The Rock    
    13    The Flower    
    To my Father in Spring    
    Travelling to Dunedin    
    At Queenstown    
    At the Fox Glacier Hotel    
    Mother and Son    
    At Kuri Bush    
    At Brighton Bay    
    Fitz Drives Home the Spigot    
    Winter River    
    Iron Scythe Song    
    The River    
    At Naseby    
    Reflections at Lowburn Ferry    
    Air Flight North    
    Winter Poem to my Wife    
    A Small Ode on Mixed Flatting    
    The Rock Woman    
    The Fear of Change    
    Summer 1967    
    The Caryatids    
    The Doctrine    
    The Black Star    
    The Bargain    
    To Patric Carey    
    Letter to Sam Hunt    

    the jerusalem period
    [The book is shut]    
    For Hone    
    from Ballad of the Junkies and the Fuzz
    1    'O star I do not believe in'  
    3    'Baron Saturday, baron of the cemeteries'   
    4    'On the wall at the bottom of my bed'   
    5    'It was necessary of course to invent the fuzz'   
    Jerusalem Sonnets: Poems for Colin Durning    
    Haere Ra    
    The Labyrinth    
    Meditation on my Father's Death    
    Winter Monologue    
    The Ikons    
    Song for Sakyamuni    
    from He Waiata mo taku Tangi
    1    'At the beginning of March'   
    He Waiata mo Te Kare    
    from Autumn Testament
    1    'As I come down the hill'   
    2    'Wahi Ngaro, the void'   
    4    'Wahi Ngaro, the gap'   
    5    'Wahi Ngaro, now the ego'   
    6     'The darkness of oneself returns'   
    9    'Groper with throats like buckets'   
    10    'The mossgrown haloed cross'   
    11    'At times when I walk'   
    14    'Soon I will go South'   
    20    'Somebody in my dream'  
    22    'To pray for an easy heart'   
    25    'Richard will not come here'   
    27    'When I stayed those three months'   
    29    'I think the Lord on his axe-chopped cross'   
    31    'I tell the girls'  
    33    'Mother, your statue'  
    36    'This fine windy morning'   
    39    'The centre of our dreaming'   
    42    'The rata blooms explode'   
    44    'This testament, a thing of rags and patches'   
    45    'Tomorrow I’ll go down to Wellington'   
    46    'After writing for an hour'   
    48    'The spider crouching on the ledge'   
    Te Whiore o te Kuri    
    from Letter to Peter Olds
    4    'The revolution doesn’t need guns'   
    from Five Sestinas
    1    Winter in Jerusalem    
    3    The Dark Welcome    
    Sestina of the River Road    
    Sestina of the Makutu    
    The Tiredness of Me and Herakles    
    Ode to Auckland    
    [Moss on plum branches]    
    [A pair of sandals]    

    Notes on the Poems    
    Māori Glossary     
    Glossary of Selected Non-Māori Words    
    Select Bibliography    
    Index of Titles    
    Index of First Lines 
    James K. Baxter
    James K. Baxter was born in Dunedin, New Zealand, in 1926. He attended Quaker schools in New Zealand and England, and in 1944 enrolled at the University of Otago. He published his first collection of poetry, Beyond the Palisades, in the same year. He abandoned his course a year later, ... read more
    Paul Millar
    Paul Millar is a lecturer in English at the University of Canterbury (Christchurch, New Zealand), with research interests in New Zealand and Pacific literature. He holds a BA (Hons) from Auckland University and a PhD from Victoria University of Wellington. He was a lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington from 1997, ... read more
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