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James K Baxter

1926-1972

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I saw the Maori Jesus
walking on Wellington Harbour.
He wore blue dungarees.
His beard and hair were long.
His breath smelt of mussels and paraoa.
When he smiled it looked like the dawn.
From 'The Maori Jesus' in Collected Poems of James K Baxter (ed J E Weir), Oxford University Press, 2003

James K Baxter

James K Baxter wrote prolifically throughout his life, producing numerous collections of poetry and criticism and several acclaimed plays.

The impact of his visit to India as a UNESCO fellow reflected his growing preoccupation with poverty, urban degeneration, and alienation, especially among the young and minority groups.

In 1969, he went to Hiruharama (Jerusalem) on the Whanganui River, where he established a community of like-minded individuals. His early death, marked by a large tangi, was mourned by an extraordinary diversity of people who had been touched by his life and work.

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