Poet Chief Farewelled

Pukerua Bay poet, playwright and author Alistair Te Ariki Campbell has died aged 84. One of the leading writers of New Zealand and the South Pacific, Campbell published more than 20 volumes of poetry in a long literary life. His poems, plays, fiction and autobiography encapsulate the complexities and contradictions of South Pacific colonisation, greater than any other writer from Aotearoa. He was born on Tongareva (Penrhyn Island), the largest atoll of the Cook Islands group. After the death of his father Jock in 1933, Alistair, his sister and two brothers were shipped to New Zealand’s chilly southern city Dunedin to live with their grandmother and receive an education. In Wellington he associated with a rebellious set of young writers who became known as the Wellington Group and published his first book of poetry, Mine Eyes Dazzle (1950), which was hailed by the New Zealand poet James K Baxter as “one of the defining events of recent New Zealand poetry”. After a breakdown in 1960, his attention turned to the traumatic experiences of his childhood. As part of his therapy he sought to understand his South Pacific inheritance and trace its roots in his own consciousness, a move that had great significance for his writing, which became increasingly sensitive to what he called the “Polynesian strain”. In later life, he added “Te Ariki” (the chief) to his name, in memory of his mother. His second wife, poet Meg Anderson, died in 2007. He is survived by five children and many grandchildren.

Alistair Te Ariki Campbell: 25 June 1925 – 16 August 2009

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