Story: Whanganui region

Jerusalem sonnets

Jerusalem sonnets

In 1969 the poet James K. Baxter formed a commune at Jerusalem (Hiruhārama) on the Whanganui River, where he lived for periods until 1972, the year of his death. In his time at the commune Baxter wrote two books of poetry – Jerusalem sonnets (1970) and Autumn testament (1972) – and a prose work, Jerusalem daybook (1971).

Poem for Colin—25

The brown river, te taniwha, flows on
Between his banks—he could even be on my side,

I suspect, if there is a side—there are still notches worn
In the cliffs downstream where they used to shove

The big canoes up; and just last week some men
Floated a ridge-pole down from an old pa

For the museum—he can also be
A brutal lover; they say he sucked under

A young girl once, and the place at the river-bend is named
After her tears—I accept that—I wait for

The taniwha in the heart to rise—when will that happen?
Is He dead or alive? A car goes by on the road

With an enormous slogan advertising
Rides for tourists on the jetboat at Pipiriki.

Poem courtesy of The James K. Baxter Trust

Using this item

Price Milburn Publishers

This item has been provided for private study purposes (such as school projects, family and local history research) and any published reproduction (print or electronic) may infringe copyright law. It is the responsibility of the user of any material to obtain clearance from the copyright holder.

Source: James K. Baxter, Jerusalem Sonnets. Wellington: Price Milburn, 1975

All images & media in this story

How to cite this page:

Diana Beaglehole, 'Whanganui region - Cultural life', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/document/19094/jerusalem-sonnets (accessed 7 December 2019)

Story by Diana Beaglehole, updated 15 Jun 2015