1 Nov 2019

Poems about the New Zealand Wars

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:40 pm on 1 November 2019

In the lead up to He Rā Maumahara - the New Zealand Wars Day of Remembrance - Auckland Museum ran a poetry competition to reflect on what the wars mean today. The idea was to share stories and challenge assumptions about the wars.

Elizabeth Gresson was one of five winners, and she joins us to read her poem and tell us the story behind it. 


Here is her poem in full:

They always said
Māori Wars dear
and you're not allowed to play with the Māori kids next door.
But she was little and they were big
and big knows best,
so Māori Wars it was.
But she grew and had heard voices
beyond the ones who said they knew,
beyond the frame of names and the way they blamed
those Māori kids next door,
but those kids said otherwise,
it's about land, they said, and language
me and you,
and she thought it may be true;
but her brothers turned away
they said they knew,
the settlers needed land, they said,
and by the way they spoke
that seemed to make it true.
But she grew
and the Māori kids next door
still told of land and how their hapu had to leave
and names like Ruapekapeka, Hōne Heke Pōkai,
wove their story wide
and the whanau cried…
She saw it all another way
and saw another name, Ngā pakanga o Aotearoa,
saw politics and power collide
in militia, resistance, invasion, confiscation…
New Zealand Wars spoke of us
and then it seemed-
we were all in this together.
She reviewed her brothers' words,
the way the past weaves through
how we go and what we do
and then she knew,
here was our story
-we were all in this together

Elizabeth Gresson

Elizabeth Gresson Photo: Supplied

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