Monday, November 12, 2007

Smithyman, Kendrick

[Photograph: Robert Cross]

Kendrick Smithyman (1922-1995)


Classic New Zealand Poets in Performance (2006):

Near Ellon
Closing the Chocolate Factory

Aotearoa NZ Poetry Sound Archive (2004):


1. Communicating
2. Near Ellon
3. After Zhivago
4. A Birthday Poem
5. Waitomo
6. Lady as Swan
7. Meeting Feodor Second
8. Loitering with Intent
9. Deconstructing
10. Pressing North
11. Night Riding
12. Closing the Chocolate Factory

New Zealand Poets Read Their Work (1974):

LP 1, side 1


Waiata Archive (1974):

CD 9

A Little Marriage Song for Juliet
Offering to a Local Figure
Near Ellon
Building Programme
A Line of Song Pately Moor
Lines for a Gay Deceiver
Above Telegraph Hill

Bio /Bibliography:

Poet and critic Kendrick Smithyman was born in Te Kopuru, in the Far North of New Zealand, on October 9th, 1922. He attended school and Teachers Training College in Auckland before wartime service in (first) the Artillery, then the Royal NZ Air Force, from 1941 to 1945. His first poems were published in the 1940s, and he came eventually to be regarded as one of the country’s most complex, demanding – yet prolific – poets. He was also the author of the first full-length critical book on New Zealand poetry, A Way of Saying (1965). In 1963 he joined the Auckland University English Department, and he worked there as a Senior Tutor until his retirement in 1987. He won the New Zealand Book Award for Poetry with his 1985 book Stories About Wooden Keyboards. In 1986 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Auckland, and in 1990 he received an OBE. He died on December 28th, 1995. A large body of new publications has appeared since his death, including the epic poem Atua Wera (1997), the online Collected Poems (2004), and the first edition of his collected translations from the Italian Modernists, Campana to Montale, in 2004.


  • 1922 (9 October) - William Kendrick Smithyman born in Te Kopuru, a small logging town on the Wairoa River near Dargaville; his parents looked after the local Old People’s Home.
  • 1930s - The Smithyman family moves to Auckland; Kendrick attends Point Chevalier Primary School and Seddon Memorial Technical College.
  • 1940-41 - Attends Auckland Teacher’s College (Teacher’s Certificate), and Auckland University College (did not graduate).
  • 1941-42 - Military service in the Royal NZ Artillery.
  • 1942-45 - Service in the Royal NZ Air Force.
  • 1944 - Begins to contribute regularly to literary periodicals in New Zealand and Australia, as well as (occasionally) the UK and USA.
  • 1945 - Writes the sequence “Considerations of Norfolk Island” (subsequently included in the 1951 edition of Allen Curnow’s Book of NZ Verse) while stationed there.
  • 1946-63 - Works as a Primary and Intermediate School teacher, specialising in Special Needs children (Kowhai and Belmont Intermediate Schools).
  • 1946 - Marries the poet Mary Stanley. They have three sons: Christopher, Stephen and Gerard.
  • 1949-57 - Literary Editor of Here & Now.
  • 1963 - Appointed Tutor in English at the University of Auckland.
  • 1966-87 - Senior Tutor in the Auckland University English Department.
  • 1969 - Appointed Visiting Fellow in Commonwealth Literature at the University of Leeds.
  • 1970 - Compiles Journal 69, an account of his travels in England and North America.
  • 1980 - Mary Stanley dies.
  • 1981 - Marries fellow English Department tutor Margaret Edgcumbe.
  • 1981-82 - Works on Festives People Places Pictures Book (October 1981-October 1982), an account of his second visit to Canada.
  • 1986 - Honorary Doctorate from the University of Auckland.
  • 1987 - Retires from the Auckland English Department.
  • 1990 - Awarded an OBE.
  • 1995 (28 December) - Dies at North Shore Hospital, Auckland, after being taken ill at his home in Northcote.

Books of Poetry:

  1. Seven Sonnets. Auckland: Pelorus Press, 1946.
  2. The Blind Mountain and Other Poems. Christchurch: Caxton Press, 1950.
  3. The Gay Trapeze. Poems in Pamphlet 4. Wellington: Handcraft Press, 1955.
  4. The Night Shift: Poems on Aspects of Love. (with James K. Baxter, Charles Doyle, and Louis Johnson). Wellington: Capricorn Press, 1957.
  5. Inheritance. Hamilton & Auckland: Paul’s Book Arcade, 1962.
  6. Flying to Palmerston. Christchurch: Auckland University & Oxford University Press, 1968.
  7. Earthquake Weather. Auckland: Auckland University Press & Oxford University Press, 1972.
  8. The Seal in the Dolphin Pool. Auckland: Auckland University Press & Oxford University Press, 1974.
  9. Dwarf with a Billiard Cue. Auckland: Auckland University Press & Oxford University Press, 1978.
  10. Stories About Wooden Keyboards. Auckland: Auckland University Press & Oxford University Press, 1985.
  11. Are You Going to the Pictures? Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1987.
  12. Selected Poems. Edited by Peter Simpson. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1989.
  13. Auto/Biographies. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1992.
  14. Tomarata. Afterword by Peter Simpson. Tamaki: Holloway Press, 1996.
  15. Atua Wera. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1997.
  16. Last Poems. Edited by Peter Simpson. Auckland: Holloway Press, 2002.
  17. Imperial Vistas Family Fictions. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2002.
  18. Campana to Montale: Versions from Italian. Edited by Jack Ross. Auckland: The Writer's Group, 2004.
  19. Collected Poems 1943-1995. Edited by Margaret Edgcumbe and Peter Simpson. Auckland: Mudflat Webworks, 2004. Available at:

  1. A Way of Saying: A Study of New Zealand Poetry. Auckland & London: Collins, 1965.
Secondary Resources:

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