Poetry Shelf from the archives: Tony Beyer celebrates Haare Williams



Haare Williams: Words of a Kaumātua, edited and introduced by Witi Ihimaera (AUP 2019) is reason for celebration in anyone’s language. Characteristic of the work and its contents is this kaumātua’s persistent acknowledgement of his elders as the source of his considerable wisdom. A modest and honest gentleman, Haare Williams might have required some coaxing, so full credit (as the footie captains say) to Witi Ihimaera as well.

My object here is neither a critique nor a review but to draw attention to the book and to rejoice in one of the most accurate and excellent metaphors in our poetry in Aotearoa. From the sequence ‘Bird songs’:


He Kuaka

(for Hone Tuwhare)


At Pārengarenga

a lone godwit


    others rise to take wing

                      and follow

to     circle and once in flight

                                    to soar

others rise

to follow



This is a beautiful poet to poet tribute. That there are so many young kuaka now in the air, which would delight him, is evidence of how much Hone Tuwhare’s precedent achieved both for Māori and for world poetry.


Tony Beyer


Tony Beyer now writes full time in Taranaki. His recent titles are Anchor Stone (2017) and Friday Prayers (2019), both from Cold Hub Press. New work appears here

Haare Williams grew up with his Tūhoe grandparents on the shores of Ōhiwa Harbour in a te reo world of Tāne and Tangaroa, Te Kooti and the old testament, of Nani Wai and curried cockle stew – a world that Haare left behind when he learnt English at school and moved to Auckland.

Over the last half-century, through the Māori arts movement, waves of protest and the rise of Māori broadcasting, Haare Williams has witnessed and played a part in the changing shape of Māoridom. And in his poetry and prose, in te reo Māori and English, Haare has a unique ability to capture both the wisdom of te ao Māori and the transformation of that world.

Recipient of an MNZM for services to Māori, Haare has been dean of Māori education and Māori adviser to the chief executive at Unitec. He was general manager of Aotearoa Radio and set up a joint venture with South Seas Film and Television to train te reo speakers as producers and operators in film and television. He has worked closely with iwi claimant communities and was responsible for waka construction and assembly at Waitangi for the 1990 commemorations as executive director of the 1990 Commission. He has published poetry, exhibited paintings, and written for film and television. He was cultural advisor for mayors of Auckland, a senior vice president of the Labour Party, and is amorangi at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Auckland University Press page






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