Te Hiringa i te Mahara
New Zealand has a long and rich tradition of poetry dating back to the pre-European oral histories of
Maori. James K. Baxter, perhaps our greatest wordsmith, left a legacy that continues to enrich our
literature as do the writings of living treasures such as Hone Tuwhare. The most notable addition to our
cultural vernacular must be Glenn Colquhoun and his musings on what it is to be a New Zealander. (Worth
a thought given the current climate)
Too often as teachers we tend to put poetry at the back of our programmes and yet it is an easy way to
introduce students to a wide range of literary and language features. It is also an easy non-threatening way
to encourage students to write creatively. ‘The Ballad of Footrot Flats’ by Murray Ball (See Year 10 Unit)
contains every figure of speech that juniors need to know including hyperbole, (Is it really possible that
horse the cat can send off a hardened fighting pig dog while in the middle of a romantic liaison?!).
Hone Tuwhare’s ‘No Ordinary Sun’, a New Zealand Classic every student should know, is a textbook for
theme and imagery. For Satirical verse read Witi Ihimaera’s ‘Dinner with a Cannibal’ or Allen Curnow’s
‘On the Tour’.
If you are interested in the female perspective examine Roma Potiki’s ‘A Chant for 19 women murdered’
or Momoe Von Reiche’s ‘Macho Games’.
Any of the poems in ‘White Feather. Poetry and Peace, An Anthology’ by Hazard Press, would serve the
thematic study of war as well if not better than, Wilfred Owen and Co.
It is hoped that the three units in this resource will encourage teachers to attempt poetry as a fun and
interesting way of teaching a variety of literary skills to students. As with anything that the class may not
be too keen on, enthusiasm and preparation is the key. Gather together a range of poetic texts, access
poetry online, check out magazines and newspapers, create a poetry wall and an environment that is
conducive to the sharing of their work with others for the students. Simple techniques such as ensuring the
class listens respectively and responds appropriately when someone is reading their work aloud.
Encourage them to question and discuss the topics of poems especially at senior level. Encourage them
also to enjoy reading and writing poetry. Poetry can lead to a wide and varied range of extension projects.
Investigate where these poems can take you and the class and follow them.
The poems used in this resource are a drop in the bucket. Your department will have texts you can use but
it is worthwhile searching further a field. Check out your local library; your own library, the best
bookstore in town, bail up colleagues and find out what they use and get on-line. If your department
subscribes to the Writers in Schools Programme, book ahead if there are any poets touring or better still, if
you have access to any poets – get them in to do a writing workshop with your class.
The most important thing is to generate interest and enthusiasm amongst your students and encourage them
to see poetry as an exciting and relevant genre in the overall study of English.
Unfortunately due to copyright limitations we could not include with the Year 9 and 10 units copies of the
poems the units are based on. They can however, be easily accessed from a range of poetry anthologies or
through your school or public library.
Have fun with these poetry units.
Nga mihi ki a kotou katoa.
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