Hone Tuwhare

Ivor Griffiths, Poet, Novelist & Short Story Writer

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Hone Tuwhare (1922-) is a noted New Zealand poet of Māori ancestry. He currently resides in The Catlins in Southland in New Zealand.


  • 1 Early Years
  • 2 Poetry Career
  • 3 Recognition and Awards
  • 4 See also
  • 5 External links

Early Years

Hone Tuwhare was born in Kaikohe, Northland, into the Nga Puhi tribe (hapu Ngati Korokoro, Ngati Tautahi, Te Popoto, Uri-o-hau). When his mother died his father moved to Auckland, where Hone attended primary schools in Avondale, Mangere and Ponsonby. He spoke Maori until he was about 9, and his father, an accomplished orator and storyteller in Maori, encouraged his son’s interest in the written and spoken word, especially in the rhythms and imagery of the Old Testament.

Poetry Career

Beginning in 1939, Tuwhare began to write whilst an apprentice at the Otahuhu Railway Workshops, encouraged by fellow poet R. A. K. Mason.

In 1956, Tuwhare began writing seriously after he resigned the Communist party. His first, and often reprinted, work - No Ordinary Sun - was published in 1964 to widespread acclaim and was reprinted ten times during the next thirty years—one of the most widely read individual collections of poems in New Zealand history.

When Tuwhare’s poems first began to appear in the late 1950s and early 1960s they were recognised as a new departure in New Zealand poetry, cutting across the debates and divisions between the 1930s and post-war generations. Much of their originality came from the Maori perspective. The poems were marked by their tonal variety, the naturalness with which they could move between formal and informal registers, between humour and pathos, intimacy and controlled anger and, especially, in their assumption of easy vernacular familiarity with New Zealand readers.

During the 1970s Hone became involved in 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. Hone's 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). In 1999 he was named New Zealand's second Te Mata Poet Laureate, the outcome of which was Piggy-Back Moon (2002).

Recognition and Awards

Hone Tuwhare was named New Zealand's second Te Mata Poet Laureate in 1999. At the end of his two year term he published Piggy Back Moon (2001) which was shortlisted in the 2002 Montana New Zealand Book Awards.

Tuwhare was among ten of New Zealand's greatest living artists named as Arts Foundation of New Zealand Icon Artists at a ceremony in 2003.

In 2003 Hone Tuwhare was awarded one of the inaugural Prime Minister's Awards for Literary Achievement for poetry. The other winners were Janet Frame of Dunedin for fiction; and Michael King of Opoutere on the Coromandel Peninsula for non-fiction . Each writer received $60,000. The awards are aimed at New Zealand writers who have made an outstanding contribution to New Zealand literature.

Tuwhare received an honorary Doctor of Literature degree from The University of Auckland in 2005.

See also

  • New Zealand literature
  • Tuwhare - a compilation album of his poems remade by New Zealand artists into songs as a dedication to him.

  • Tuwhare's biography on Poetry International Web
  • Timeline of Hone Tuwhare
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