On the Anniversary of the Death of James K Baxter

Last Sunday a group of around 40 people gathered for breakfast at Lola’s Café in Waipawa to memorialise the death of James K Baxter, Hemi, friend and poet, on 22nd October 1972. One had been with him on the night before his death. She recalled that Hemi spent much of the evening talking quietly and giving solace to a young man who was in inner turmoil. Another had heard Hemi’s seminal recital, as Burns Fellow, of “An Ode to Mixed Flatting” to a delighted audience of students at Otago University. Two of the breakfasters were teachers and they performed one of Baxter’s poems for children, the Little Mermaid. Many poems were recited that morning, the lyrical, the social, and the political identifying the oppression of Maori people by the State. It would surely amuse the poet that forty-six years after his death that there would be tributes to him even in an otherwise sleepy predominantly Pakeha conservative Hawke’s Bay village.

Yet not only does the bard’s poetry still resonate, his promotion of works of mercy and social activism continue to be delivered those on the very social periphery, the people Hemi called the Tribe of Nga Mokai. One such channel of service is provided by the Consultancy Advocacy and Research Trust, (CART) based in the Garibaldi Club’s building in central Wellington.

CART’s programmes are based on Hemi’s five water-worn Maori stones he said should be used in the slings of modern-day David’s against the goliath of the state: Arohanui – Holding the love of people; Manuhiritanga –  Offering an open house to those in need;  Korero – Staying prepared to talk problems through;  Ma te wa – Feeding the spiritual part of our people; and, Mahi – Working together for a common purpose

CART aims to enact Hemi’s instructions in Jerusalem Daybook about how to build community as an operational tikanga:  Feed the hungry;  Give drink to the thirsty; Give clothes to those who lack them; Give hospitably to strangers; Look after the sick; Bail people out of jail, visit them in jail, and look after them when they come out of jail; Go to neighbour’s funerals; Tell ignorant people what you in your ignorance think you know; Help the doubtful to clarify their minds and make their own decisions; Console the sad; Reprove sinners, but gently brother, gently;  Forgive what seems to be harm done to yourself; Put up with difficult people; and, Pray for whatever has life including the spirits of the dead. That’s how we do dead poets in this society called Aotearoa.  Moe mai te hoa e Hemi. Eternal rest grant to him o Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him.

For more information on CART www.cart.org.nz

Tags: Denis O'Reilly  James K Baxter  

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