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The Returning

A tribute to New Zealand poets Alistair Te Ariki Campbell and Meg Campbell.

“Mother, your footsteps falter outside my window
where you have waited fifty years for your children to return
The moon comes out lovely as a mother’s face over a sleeping child
The trade winds are your fingers on my eyelids”
(from “Trade Winds” by Alistair Te Ariki Campbell)

The Returning pays tribute to two notable New Zealand poets who have recently passed away.

For over forty years Alistair Te Ariki Campbell and Meg Campbell composed poetry while living on the rugged cliff-tops above Pukerua Bay, just north of Wellington. Many of the recordings in The Returning were captured at their home as they reflected on their lives and work. These interviews are sympathetically inter-cut with archival footage of the poets reading their own work.

“We are so fortunate that Sound Archives/Nga Taonga Korero and Radio New Zealand Concert systematically kept recordings of Meg and Alistair over the years – some dating back to the late 1940s” says producer Gareth Watkins. “It was such a pleasure to listen to, and construct a portrait of these two important New Zealanders solely through archival material”

Alistair died on the 16th August 2009. He was a prolific writer who had four novels and seventeen collections of poetry published in his lifetime. Alistair was born in Rarotonga in 1925. His early life was spent on his mother’s island of Tongareva - the most remote and largest atoll of the 15 Cook Islands. At the age of seven, after both his parents died, he was sent with his sister and two brothers to live in New Zealand.

In 1957 he met and fell in love with Aline Margaret Andersen, who later became Meg Campbell. Meg was born in Palmerston North in 1937. During her life she had six collections of poetry published. Vivienne Jepsen wrote that in Meg's poems “The image of suffering is precisely poised between the momentous and the everyday.” Meg died on the 17th November 2007.

“An important part of this feature’s production was the taking back of sound recordings and photographs to the Campbell family” says Gareth. “Over a period of years I was fortunate to record and photograph Alistair and Meg. It was really special to be able to return copies of those historic images and voices to the whanau who still live above Pukerua Bay.”

“Ultimately this feature is about returning things – memories – to their rightful place, just like Alistair and Meg who now rest atop the cliff-tops of Pukerua Bay, looking out to Kapiti Island, surrounded by whanau.”

Meg Campbell and Alistair Te Ariki Campbell

A tribute to New Zealand poets Alistair Te Ariki Campbell and Meg Campbell.


Alistair and Meg

Poetry featured

Meg Campbell

  • Aftermath
  • School for Little Children
  • This Morning at Dawn
  • Love Affair
  • Glimpses into Porirua Mental Hospital (excerpt)
  • Solitary Confinement
  • A Vision of Doves
  • Media
  • Resistance

All poems read by Meg Campbell (except “Resistance”, read by Prue Langbein)

Alistair Te Ariki Campbell

  • Trade Winds
  • The Cromwell Gorge
  • Elegy (excerpt)
  • The Return
  • Wild Honey
  • Porangi
  • Westward
  • Maori Battalion Veteran
  • Elegy for ANZAC day

All poems read by Alistair Te Ariki Campbell (except "Elegy" read by Basil Dowling and  “Tidal” read by Prue Langbein)